<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Sports]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.comen-usMon, 02 May 2016 20:40:49 -0500Mon, 02 May 2016 20:40:49 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Fairy Tale Champions: Why Long-Shot Leicester Matters]]> Mon, 02 May 2016 18:37:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/521847280-premier-league-champions-leicester-city.jpg

Long-shot Leicester City, a soccer team most people in America probably haven't even heard of, have been crowned champions of the biggest soccer league in the world. Their first-ever title, which they clinched Monday when their closest rival couldn't pull out a win, brought on cries of joy not only in England but across the globe.

Why is a team from a small city halfway between London and Manchester being called by some the greatest story in all of sports? We've never seen an underdog stay this good — after being so bad — for so long. Ever.

Here are four reasons your soccer-obsessed friends are talking about the biggest little football team in all of Europe.

In the world of big-time soccer, there are only a handful of teams that have enough money to matter. You've probably heard of them — Real Madrid is the richest team in the world, according to this year's Deloitte Football Money League analysis.

Leicester (It's pronounced "Lester," as in Lester Holt) are pretty wealthy themselves, having being bought by a Thai billionaire in 2010. But even as the 24th wealthiest team in the world, they only have about a quarter of the revenue of Real Madrid and less than a third of the richest English team, Manchester United, according to Deloitte.

Only one other team outside Deloitte's top 10 has won the Premier League since it started in 1992, as a way to capitalize on money in TV broadcasting rights. The richest few teams, all backed by their own billionaires, have the money to buy the best players in the world, helping them to more success, and more money, and on and on.

In a year when Bernie Sanders won't stop telling Americans the banking system is rigged for the rich to win, Leicester is proof that the little guy can still win it all in a system that's stacked pretty heavily in favor of the big guys.

Leicester was the worst team in the Premier League a little over a year ago, in last place when 2015 began. They only survived — the worst three teams drop to a lower league at the end of each season — after they brought in a new manager, but there weren't a lot of people who thought they'd do it again this season, let alone win the league.

In fact they had never won the top division in England (or Britain, when teams from Wales qualified) in the 132 years the team existed. It was one of dozens of fairly successful teams from small cities across the English countryside.

For 2015-2016, oddsmakers had them at 5,000-to-1 odds to win the league. Elvis surfacing in good health was a 2,000-1 shot, according to The Associated Press. An analysis in The New York Times pegged the odds of the great 1980 "Miracle on Ice" between 17-to-1 and 1,000-to-1.

To understand how unlikely this is, imagine a No. 16 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament winning the whole thing. No, it's never happened, but all they have to do is win six games against teams better than they are. Leicester needed to collect more points over 38 games, in nine months, than 19 teams many thought were better than them. Three had at least 13 more league titles than Leicester.

Few could have named Leicester's players at the start of the year, and while none is yet a world-beating star in his own right, the players' inspired performances together have made them household names for soccer fans. Take Jamie Vardy, an Englishman who this year set a record for scoring goals in the most consecutive games in the Premier League, at 11. He's likely to play for England at this summer's European Championships.

They come from all over the world, too. Riyad Mahrez, a wizard with his feet, comes from Algeria; key support strikers Shinji Okazaki and Leonardo Ulloa are from Japan and Argentina; Jamaican captain Wes Morgan is usually partnered in defense by a German, Robert Huth; they play in front of Kasper Schmeichel, a goalkeeper from Denmark.

Now, those players are the toast of Britain. Two recently one the league's top player awards — Mahrez won player of the year from the Professional Footballers Association, and Vardy beat out Mahrez and another teammate to be named the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year.

The heart of the team this year has been an old Italian coach named Claudio Ranieri, 64, a man who had never coached a team to a championship even when he was in charge of one of the best teams in the world, Juventus.

Ever calm and seemingly always smiling behind his round spectacles, Ranieri grabbed headlines in October when he promised his team a pizza party if they held their opponents scoreless. The players had to make the pizza themselves though, a lesson from Ranieri that they had to work for everything.

"It was very good, too. I enjoyed many slices. What can I say? I’m an Italian man. I love my pizza and my pasta," Ranieri wrote in The Player's Tribune in April.

It might have been cheesy, but the motivation worked: They held their opponents scoreless 14 more times this year in the Premier League, including a stingy run of five games in March and Aprli that all but cemented their championship.

Even when "little Leicester," as he affectionately called his team, started pulling away from the pack, Ranieri always said the right things about keeping a level head and never thinking beyond the next game.

"No matter what happens to end this season, I think our story is important for all football fans around the world. It gives hope to all the young players out there who have been told they are not good enough," he wrote in The Player's Tribune.

Oh, and as for his priorities, Ranieri didn't watch the title-deciding match between second-place Tottenham and Chelsea on Monday. He was scheduled to be on a plane, flying back from Rome where he was having lunch with his 96-year-old mother, he told reporters on Sunday.

Photo Credit: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images, file
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<![CDATA[Heyward to Miss Cubs-Pirates Game Monday]]> Mon, 02 May 2016 17:13:53 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Jason+Heyward.png

Just one day after getting Kris Bryant back in their lineup, the injury bug has bitten the Chicago Cubs again as Jason Heyward will miss Monday's NL Central Division showdown with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Heyward, who is in the midst of an 0-for-17 slump, is dealing with a sore right wrist, and is being classified as "day-to-day" by the Cubs.

According to Cubs radio analyst Mark Grote, Heyward began to experience issues with the wrist during the team's series against the Arizona Diamondbacks in early April.

A determination on whether Heyward will be placed on the disabled list has yet to be made, but at least for Monday night he will be replaced in the lineup by Matt Szczur, who clobbered a grand slam in Friday's win over the Atlanta Braves.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Cubs Manager Joe Maddon confirmed the news.

"I don't think it's a long-term thing by any means, but his wrist is sore," Maddon said. 

This isn't the first high profile injury the Cubs have had to deal with recently. Bryant made his return to the lineup on Sunday after spraining his ankle against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field earlier in the week.

The Cubs' schedule will make any Heyward absence tougher to swallow, as they battle the Pirates in a three-game series at PNC Park this week and welcome the red hot Washington Nationals to Wrigley for a four-game set this weekend.

<![CDATA[Antrel Rolle Blames Halas Hall Turf for Knee Injury]]> Mon, 02 May 2016 14:51:46 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-485288530.jpg

Ankle and knee injuries cut short the tenure of former Chicago Bears safety Antrel Rolle in the Windy City, and on Monday, he shed some light on the cause of the ailments that he suffered.

According to Rolle, the knee injury that he sustained before the team’s game against the Denver Broncos during the 2015 season was caused by poor field conditions at the Bears’ training facility at Halas Hall.

“It was the first week that my ankle started to feel 60, 70 percent, and I had it taped up,” he said in an interview with ‘The Spiegel and Goff Show’. I was shuffling, and I tried to change direction, and I slipped on the surface. The only thing that was able to give was my knee, and it had to take the force of that impact. The doctor even said that it’s unusual to find the tear I had with a non-contact injury. I think the surface had a whole lot to do with it.”

The playing surface at Soldier Field, which is maintained by the Chicago Park District, is constantly criticized by players and media alike as one of the worst fields in the league, but Rolle says that the fields at Halas Hall aren’t much better.

“The facilities are good in Chicago, but the fields aren’t as good,” he said. “I always knew Soldier Field was bad, but I never knew that the facilities (at Halas Hall) were just as bad.”

Rolle played in seven games for the Bears during his lone season in Chicago, with the knee injury costing him the remainder of the season. He registered 35 tackles and one pass defended in his time with the Bears before being released by the team on Sunday afternoon. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[What Makes a Triple Crown-Winning Horse?]]> Mon, 02 May 2016 10:06:06 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-480966886.jpg

"The 37-year wait is over! American Pharaoh is finally the one! American Pharoah has won the Triple Crown!"

Those words from famed horse racing announcer Larry Collmus at last year's Belmont Stakes marked the end of a nearly four-decade drought, and thrust horse racing into the national spotlight.

American Pharaoh's gallop into the history books has left many wondering if there could be another Triple Crown winner this year. It's certainly possible, but experts say it will take a horse with the right combination of pedigree, training and versatility - and a little luck wouldn't hurt.

The Triple Crown of horse racing — winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes — is the pinnacle for 3-year-old thoroughbreds.

A mere 12 colts have achieved the feat since Sir Barton swept the series in 1919, and only once in all of American racing history has the trifecta occurred in consecutive years.

Of course, there have been some near-misses.

Between 1979 — after Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978 — and 2015, 13 horses managed to clinch the Derby and Preakness races, only to be stopped on their quest at the Belmont Stakes.

At 1 and 1/2 miles (12 furlong), the third jewel of the Triple Crown is the longest race track in the United States. Richard Migliore, a former jockey and racing analyst for the New York Racing Association, notes race horses that compete at Belmont “probably have never, and will never, run that distance again."

"Thoroughbreds today are bred for speed, not stamina, so they are too fatigued to keep up the pace required to win the Belmont," Migliore said, adding that many of the contenders at Belmont don't compete in the previous two races and are well-rested.

Over the years, many have called on a change in the racing schedule, while others, including the owner of California Chrome, said the pool for the three races should be limited to the horses that enter the Kentucky Derby.

"Because it had been so long since Affirmed won the Triple Crown, most people thought that this was getting close to impossible to do, it was too much to ask a horse to do," said NBC horse racing reporter Kenny Rice.

The Triple Crown schedule is grueling. It is difficult for a horse shipped around the country to endure the rigor of the journey after a strenuous race and not become ornery.

But then came American Pharoah. As Collmus so aptly put it in the final yards of the Belmont on June 6, he was "finally the one" – the one who could indeed win three races, at three tracks, in three different states, at three different distances, in the span of five weeks.

"That's why it separates the great ones. I think that's why I like the Triple Crown as is, because when you win it, you're a great horse," Rice says. "You may have a little bit of racing luck along the way, but it's not a fluke. That's why I think all the horses that have won the triple crown are special horses."

There are many factors, tangible and intangible, that combine in the making of a great racehorse, and experts have varying opinions on what those attributes are.

Some point to pedigree. Many champion horses carry elite genes.

American Pharaoh, for example, carries the bloodlines of three Triple Crown champions: Count Fleet, War Admiral and Secretariat. On the other hand, Affirmed came from modest genes that didn't trace back to a Triple Crown winner. Its sire didn't produce anything of exceptional merit after Affirmed, and his 1978 Triple Crown rival Alydar was considered a superior breeding source, according to BloodHorse's Avalyn Hunter.

"When Affirmed went to stud in 1980, he was competing with fellow Triple Crown winners Secretariat and Seattle Slew, but many horsemen considered his rival Alydar much likelier to make a top sire given his deep female family," Hunter said.

Others attribute a race horse's success to premiere training. Owners seek elite stakes-winning trainers to get their 2-year-old thoroughbreds in peak 3-year-old Derby shape.

Much like March Madness, each stop on the road to the Kentucky Derby will determine who will earn enough points and prove worthy of a spot in the starting gate at Churchill Downs. Purse leaders like trainers Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen, Kiaran McLaughlin, Doug O'Neill and Bob Baffert have a track record of starting horses at the Derby.

But whether it's genes, quality training, mental constitution or just pure luck, one characteristic they all seem to agree upon is versatility.

"All the triple crown winners standout because they rose above any obstacles, avoided anything in their way — in this case other horses — and that's what we saw last year. That's how good American Pharaoh was. He could run at the front, he could run near the front. He had different gears that, when he needed to shift, he could. I think that's what the next horse that wins the Triple Crown is going to have to do."

There are no certainties in horse racing, but Migliore believes at least one horse competing in the 142nd Kentucky Derby is showing that ability.

"Nyquist has shown he is not a one dimensional horse. As a 2-year-old and in his Derby prep races, he's been forced ridiculously wide and has demonstrated that he can shift and win," Migliore said.

The champion thoroughbred will enter the starting gate at Churchill on May 7 as a favorite with an undefeated record. Rice says Nyquist's Florida Derby victory over rival Mohaymen was "the most impressive of the Triple Crown prep races."

Another front-runner, ranking second on the Associated Press' Run for the Roses Top 10 list, is Gun Runner. The colt, trained by Steve Asmussem, is an odds favorite having established a points lead over the field.

Santa Anita Derby winner Exxagerator is also a top contender. Exaggerator was one of the most accomplished 2-year-olds in 2015 and a close runner-up to champion Nyquist in the San Vicente S. at Santa Anita in his seasonal debut. He won the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby race by a widening 6 1/4 lengths, placing himself squarely in the middle of the Kentucky Derby picture. 

The final lineup of the 20 Kenutcky Derby contenders has yet to be announced and only time will tell if a Triple Crown winner is among them. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Black Cat Slips Onto NHL Rink]]> Mon, 02 May 2016 11:02:13 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/IMG_9617.jpg

The San Jose Sharks got an unexpected visit Friday.

Before the NHL team beat the Nashville Predators 5-2 at the SAP Center, a black cat crept out of the player bench area and scurried onto the ice.

As the Sharks warmed up for the first game of their best-of-seven playoff series, fans watched the small feline making a beeline for an oversized, fiberglass shark head, only to escape under the seats at "the Shark Tank," as the arena is known.

The venue’s staff was able to safely rescue the cat and dubbed it Joe Paw-velski, after Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the team announced Sunday.

"The amount of interest generated by Joe's appearance and those wishing to adopt him has been overwhelming," said Sharks Chief Operating Officer John Tortora in a statement.

Joe has been taken to a local animal shelter to undergo a health examination, the team said. Staff will also investigate whether the cat has a microchip, in the hopes of reuniting it with its owner.

"If he is indeed a stray, our goal is to find the best home for him with the support of our local animal shelters," Tortora said. "If families are interested in adopting Joe but unsuccessful, we strongly encourage you to consider adopting another animal in need of a good home from one of our terrific local animal shelters."

Photo Credit: San Jose Sharks
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<![CDATA[Bears Release Matt Slauson and Antrel Rolle]]> Sun, 01 May 2016 19:21:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/slauson+rolle+0501.jpg

The Chicago Bears have added plenty of new faces this weekend, but those acquisitions mean saying goodbye to a couple of veteran pieces.

On Sunday afternoon, the Bears officially released safety Antrel Rolle and offensive guard Matt Slauson from their contracts. The Bears drafted players at both positions during this weekend’s NFL Draft, with Deon Bush and Deiondre’ Hall getting selected at safety and Cody Whitehair at guard.

“We thank Matt and Antrel for the dedication and leadership they brought to our organization,” Bears G.M. Ryan Pace said in a statement. “Both men did everything we asked of them. Part of growing as a team is making difficult decisions like the ones we made today. We never take them lightly given the respect we have for everyone who has put on a Bears uniform. We wish each of them the very best as they move forward.”

Rolle played in seven games for the Bears during the 2015 season, his first with the club. He registered 30 tackles and one pass defended on the campaign.

Slauson has been with the Bears for the last three seasons, playing at both left guard and center for the Bears in his career. He started in all 16 games the team played in 2015 after missing 11 games during the 2014 campaign. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bears Sign Sommers, Robertson-Harris to Deals]]> Sat, 30 Apr 2016 19:34:29 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/bears+fan+GettyImages-155474147.jpg

The Chicago Bears didn’t waste any time after the NFL Draft was over to begin signing undrafted free agents, inking Joe Sommers and Roy Robertson-Harris to contracts.

Sommers, a tight end at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, had 41 receptions for 669 yards and three touchdowns this season. The Bears are looking for extra tight ends after trading away Martellus Bennett this offseason, and they could be looking to address the position after they didn’t take any tight ends during the draft over the weekend.

The Bears also brought in Robertson-Harris, who was projected by many to be a fourth or fifth round pick. The University of Texas-El Paso product is an athletic defensive end with a lot of explosiveness against the run, and while he’s likely not a three-down defensive end, he could be a disruptive player for the Bears on the defensive side of the ball.

Update: Cornerback Kevin Peterson was also signed to a deal with the Bears, as the Oklahoma State product will look to bolster a weak position for Chicago. He's on the short side at 5-foot-10, but he has been praised for his football IQ and ran a solid 4.56 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. 

The Bears have also signed tight end Ben Braunecker out of Harvard and linebacker Don Cherry from Villanova. Reports are also out that the team has agreed to deals with three offensive tackles, with Dan Bucholz (Duquense), Adrian Bellard (Texas State), and John Kling (Buffalo) all in the mix, as is cornerback Taveze Calhoune from Mississippi State. 

Finally, wide receiver Darrin Peterson is also rumored to have signed a contract with the Bears, according to Aaron Wilson. 

Braunecker is a physically imposing tight end with a mean streak and solid blocking ability, but he isn't a very good pass catcher and the Bears would likely keep him around only if he can fill the role of extra blocker on short yardage and goal line plays. 

Peterson, a wide receiver out of Liberty University, had 68 receptions and seven touchdowns in his final season at the school. In 2014, he played in 14 games, hauling in 85 catches for 1379 yards and a dozen touchdowns. 

Calhoune was a solid producer at Mississippi State, with 27 passes defended in his career with the Bulldogs. He also had an interception and 53 tackles in his junior season, with nine pass breakups to his credit. 

Several Bears players thrived as undrafted free agents a season ago, including Cameron Meredith, Jonathan Anderson, and John Timu. Meredith had 11 catches for the Bears in 2015, with Timu appearing in seven games and registering 24 tackles. Anderson played in 11 games with the Bears, with 36 tackles and an interception to his credit. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bears Sign Brian Hoyer to 1-Year Contract]]> Sat, 30 Apr 2016 18:41:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/brian+hoyer+GettyImages-503288292.jpg

The Chicago Bears did not draft a quarterback in the 2016 NFL Draft, but the team has still added a new back-up to the mix, as G.M. Ryan Pace confirmed that they have signed veteran Brian Hoyer to a 1-year deal.

The deal was first reported by multiple outlets, including Adam Schefter from ESPN and Brad Biggs from the Chicago Tribune.

The Bears, who still have Matt Blanchard and David Fales on the roster as potential back-ups for Jay Cutler, will instead give Hoyer an opportunity to take over the role in the 2016 campaign. Hoyer spent the 2015 season with the Houston Texans, starting in nine games and completing 60.7 percent of his passes. He threw 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions for the Texans, who won the AFC South championship before being eliminated in the wild card round of the postseason.

Many draft experts thought that the Bears would draft a quarterback, especially with Cutler’s guaranteed money set to come off the books after the 2016 season. Instead, the Bears focused on other needs on defense, and they will try to go through the season with the veteran Hoyer on the roster instead of a draft pick. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Bears Draft Grades: 2016 Edition]]> Sat, 30 Apr 2016 17:28:57 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/bears+draft+grades+0430.jpg

The Chicago Bears went into this weekend’s NFL Draft in desperate need of improvement at countless positions on the field, and they’ve certainly cast a very wide net in terms of grabbing a slew of talented players.

While all of the hallmarks of Ryan Pace’s approach are on display, including arm length, explosiveness, and high production at the collegiate level, he’s also made some interesting decisions that could have a serious impact on the team’s roster for 2016 and beyond.

With that in mind, we’ve graded each of the Bears’ 2016 draft picks, and explained what they’re going to bring to the table as they begin their NFL careers.

Round 1, Pick 9: Leonard Floyd, Linebacker – Georgia

Grade: B-

Giving Floyd a lower grade than any other pick the Bears have made may seem harsh, but when a team trades up to grab a player, you have to anticipate that he’s going to be an instant difference maker on the field, and there are arguments to be made that Floyd doesn’t fit that profile for the Bears.

Sure, he’s a very athletic, long player that can close out space and make plays, but he also has limited potential in terms of getting stronger or becoming an elite linebacker. He doesn’t profile as a three-down linebacker right away, and although he could develop into one, that’s not the kind of thing that you want from a top-10 pick in the draft.

With all of that being said, Pace did a very nice job last season of evaluating draft talent, and he has earned the benefit of the doubt, especially with the rest of the draft class in mind.

Round 2, Pick 56: Cody Whitehair, Offensive Guard – Kansas State

Grade: B+

The Bears’ offensive line already seemed pretty well set, with the addition of guys like Manny Ramirez and Bobby Massie to the roster, but they still used a very high draft pick to address an issue, as they bring Whitehair aboard.

The question isn’t necessarily what he’ll bring to the table (where he’ll likely play as a guard), but what the selection means for the future of both Matt Slauson and Hroniss Grasu. Will the Bears trade Slauson, or are they anticipating moving him to center and giving Grasu more time to gain strength and improve his technique at the position?

They could also move Kyle Long back out to tackle and have Whitehair play the guard position, but that doesn’t seem like an ideal scenario for Chicago.

Round 3, Pick 72: Jonathan Bullard, Defensive End – Florida

Grade: A

Watching game film of Bullard indicates that he should have probably been a second round pick for the Bears. He is a remarkable athlete with a lot of versatility on the defensive line, and he’ll certainly be able to add an athletic element to the Bears as they try to solidify the ends of their line up.

Pro Football Focus named him the best pick of the second day of the draft, praising the Bears for selecting him. He isn’t the most explosive player, but he is quick around the line of scrimmage and has a knack for slapping away hands and shedding blocks.

Round 4, Pick 113: Nick Kwiatkoski, Linebacker – West Virginia

Grade: B

The Bears have focused a lot of resources on improving at the middle linebacker position during this offseason, adding Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan at the position. Kwiatkoski gives them another young option at the position, and he’ll come in from the Mountaineers’ defense looking to make an impact on defense and on special teams.

He is a very solid tackler, and while he isn’t the most athletically-gifted player in the draft, he’s a hard worker that should fit in very well with the team’s culture in Chicago.

Round 4, Pick 124: Deon Bush, Safety – Miami

Grade: B

If Bears fans wanted a hard hitter, then they certainly found one in Bush. In highlight packages on YouTube, Bush routinely makes monstrous hits over the middle of the field, and even though he isn’t the most sure-handed tackler in the draft, the Bears certainly view him as a similar talent to Adrian Amos at the safety spot.

According to scouting reports, Bush will need to work hard on his ability to diagnose plays off the snap. Fortunately for him, he works out in the offseason with Bears safety Antrel Rolle, and he’s looking forward to working with his fellow Hurricanes alum at the next level.

Round 4, Pick 127: Deiondre’ Hall, Safety – Northern Iowa

Grade: B+

Pace and company love players with long arms, and Hall’s are incredibly long, measuring in at 34 and 3/8ths inches. That is one inch longer than Kyle Long’s arms, and that length gives him the unique ability to force turnovers and wrap up tackles in space at the safety position.

In his post-draft interview, Hall said that he models his game after Charles Tillman, and if he can provide that style of production, then Vic Fangio is absolutely going to love him. The Bears have been looking for playmakers in space, and adding a player that can take reps along with Adrian Amos could be a huge boost to a secondary in desperate need of one.

Round 5, Pick 150: Jordan Howard, Running Back – Indiana

Grade: A

The Bears already have a lot of running backs on their roster, with Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey, and Jacquizz Rodgers all already in the mix, but Howard gives the Bears something they were sorely lacking last year: a really good third down and short yardage option out of the backfield.

Watching film of Howard reveals exactly what the Bears are hoping for out of him: a vicious runner that hits opponents hard, gets extra yards with his strength and nose for gaps in the line of scrimmage, and, most notably, a guy that can actually catch the ball out of the backfield.

He is a third or fourth round talent that the Bears managed to grab in the fifth round, and fans should be thrilled with his selection.

Round 6, Pick 185: DeAndre Houston-Carson, Safety – William & Mary

Grade: A-

When picking this late in the draft, teams are looking for two things: versatility and an ability to play special teams. Houston-Carson fills both of those roles, and he has the game that the Bears are looking for in their players. He has long arms, an insatiable work ethic, and is willing to do the nitty-gritty work involved with playing on the special teams unit.

With the way this team has struggled in that area the last several seasons, adding a good player like Houston-Carson is certainly the way to go.

Round 7, Pick 230: Daniel Braverman, Wide Receiver - Western Michigan

Grade: B+

The Bears already have a really solid slot receiver type in Marc Mariani, but Braverman could give them another option there if they choose to utilize him in that fashion. He's got decent speed, but he doesn't have much size and isn't exactly a downfield threat. Should be interested to see what Dowell Loggains has in mind for him. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bears Select Six New Players on Final Day of NFL Draft]]> Sat, 30 Apr 2016 17:15:50 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Chicago+Bears+Fan.jpg

The Chicago Bears came into day three of the NFL Draft with seven picks, including three fourth round selections, but they couldn't wait to get things started, as they traded up in the fourth round to grab linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski out of West Virginia. 

The Bears made a trade to move up four spots to get the selection, sending the 117th overall pick and a sixth round pick (the selection they acquired from the Carolina Panthers in the Jared Allen trade) to the Los Angeles Rams for the selection. 

During his collegiate career, Kwiatkoski had 303 tackles and six interceptions, and he also had 10 tackles for loss during his final season with the Mountaineers. He'll likely play select downs at inside linebacker, spelling Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman in the Bears' 3-4 defense. 

Later in the fourth round, the Bears made their second selection of the day, taking safety Deon Bush out of the University of Miami. A great 40-time at the Combine pushed him up some draft boards, but concerns about his ability to diagnose plays off the snap also caused some teams to hesitate on taking him. 

Just a few picks later, the Bears selected another safety off the board, picking Deiondre' Hall out of Northern Iowa. According to his NFL.com profile, he's known for his long reach and his intelligence on the field, and he also set a new school record for "pick sixes" in his career as he returned four interceptions for touchdowns. 

In the fifth round, the Bears addresesd their offensive needs as they snagged another Big Ten running back for their back field. Jordan Howard, a powerful back that will likely be used in short yardage situations, will join the Bears out of Indiana, as they pick a mid-round back out of a Big Ten school for the second consecutive draft (they drafted Michigan State product Jeremy Langford in the fourth round in 2015). 

DeAndre Houston-Carson, a safety out of William & Mary, was the Bears' selection in the sixth round of the draft. Largely a special teams ace, he can also play both safety and corner for the Bears, and he could be a player that turns some heads in training camp this summer. 

The Bears grabbed another steal in the seventh round as they selected wide receiver Daniel Braverman. The receiver led the nation in receiving yards in the slot this season, and he provides a dynamic, speedy option at wideout that some scouts thought warranted a third or fourth round draft selection. 

With the draft complete, the Bears will join the 31 other NFL teams in trying to scoop up talented players from among those that were undrafted. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Tunsil Declines to Address Past]]> Sat, 30 Apr 2016 10:11:32 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/042916+laremy+tunsil+presser.jpg

The Miami Dolphins think they got the second best player in the NFL draft with the 13th pick. But there's a catch. A big, bizarre, controversial catch.

Just before Thursday's NFL Draft, a video was tweeted from the official account of Ole Miss Offensive Linemen Laremy Tunsil. The video shows him smoking from a gas mask bong.

The tweet and account were subsequently deleted, and Tunsil's agent has stated that the OT's account was hacked.

As the video went viral, team after team passed on drafting Tunsil, who was previously projected to be the first overall pick by some analysts. It's estimated the drop cost him millions in salary.

That is, until it was the Dolphins' turn. The Fins selected Tunsil with the 13th overall draft pick.

Miami said they were comfortable with Tunsil's character, saying they'd researched him and had him take personality tests.

"We did not expect him to be there (at #13)," said Dolphins General Manager Chris Grier.

At the Dolphins official draft party at Nova Southeastern University, fans were stunned they got Tunsil too. But many of them didn't realize why he slipped until we showed them the gas mask video.

He was asked if he has a drug problem he said no. And to those who question if the Dolphins can trust him? "Don't question my character," Tunsil said. "You can't judge a book by its cover. I'm a good person"

Tunsil said he was hacked on Twitter and did not specify who did it, adding he does not intend to press charges.

At a Friday press conference where the Dolphins were expected to introduce him, Tunsil was a no-show. Team officials said he couldn't attend due to an allergic reaction.

"There were some mistakes he had made in his past, we were comfortable with that, all the research we had done," Dolphins VP of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said. " We are comfortable with his character, very comfortable with Laremy, the player and the person."

Tunsil attended a later press conference where he said he was feeling better.

"The doctors took care of me so I'm good," he said.

Tunsil mostly avoided questions about the controversy surrounding the video.

"I'm excited to be here, it's a blessed opportunity just to be in the NFL, just to be a part of the Miami Dolphins organization," he said.

Photo Credit: NBC6.com]]>
<![CDATA[Philly's 'Steph Curry'-Brand Heroin]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 16:25:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/steph+curry+heroin+cp.jpg

Basketball superstar Steph Curry seems to be everywhere these days. At the White House with President Obama, on the cover of a parenting magazine and now on a brand of heroin.

SEPTA police confiscated a set of heroin-filled dime bags emblazoned with Curry's name and face in Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood on Tuesday.

The stamp, as the branding is called, is like a logo drug dealers use to market the potent opioid to drug-addicted people. They can be named after companies (like Facebook), objects, feelings, or in Curry's case, people. These stamps come and go quickly, with dozens being sold at a time across the area, narcotics officers say.

NBC10 explored the tragic world of heroin and opioid addiction in the Philadelphia area and beyond in the in-depth investigation, Generation Addicted. Learn more about the issues people face and the new strategies being employed to help people get treatment here.

A SEPTA police officer came across the Curry stamp after stopping an 18-year-old man at Kensington Avenue and Somerset Street around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel said.

The officer stopped the Hammonton, New Jersey, man after seeing blood on his hands, Nestel said. He was arrested and the drugs were taken as evidence.

Nestel tagged the Golden State Warriors point guard when tweeting a photo of the drugs saying: "Thinking Steph Curry wouldn't be happy that he is this week's brand for heroin in Philly."

That's probably an understatement.

NBC10 reached out to Curry's reps to get his thoughts about the stamp, but we haven't heard back. A spokeswoman for the Golden State Warriors had no comment.

Photo Credit: SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel]]>
<![CDATA[Bears Select Whitehair, Bullard on Draft's Second Day]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 21:03:17 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Bears2.png

The Chicago Bears traded down twice in the second round on Friday night at the NFL Draft, but they finally ended up making a selection as they picked offensive guard Cody Whitehair out of Kansas State.

Whitehair, who was originally projected as a late first round pick, will provide instant competition on the Bears’ offensive line, with rumors swirling that the team could be looking to move players like Matt Slauson in a trade.

Whitehair could also conceviably be in play for the left tackle spot, although his game is better suited for the guard position. 

The Bears did make their third round pick without making any trades, selecting defensive end Jon Bullard out of the University of Florida. Bullard, who was projected as a second-to-third round player, had six and a half sacks and 63 tackles for the Gators during his final season in Gainesville. 

The Bears originally held the 10th pick of the second round on Friday, but they sent it to the Buffalo Bills in a deal that sent the 49th overall pick and two fourth round picks back to Chicago. The Bills ultimately used that pick on Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland.

The Bears then made another trade with the 49th pick, sending it to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for the 56th pick and another fourth round pick. The Seahawks used the pick to select nose tackle Jarran Reed out of the University of Alabama.

Several players the Bears could have potentially taken with the pick were swiped off the board before their selection came up. Kevin Dodd, defensive end from Clemson, was selected by the Tennessee Titans, and Hunter Henry, tight end from Arkansas, was scooped up by the San Diego Chargers early in the second round.

A pair of injured, high ceiling linebackers also went off the board quickly, as the Dallas Cowboys snagged Jaylon Smith out of Notre Dame and the Jacksonville Jaguars traded up to draft Myles Jack out of UCLA.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[US Synchro Swimmers]]> Mon, 02 May 2016 16:03:31 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/0427-2016-SynchroSwimmers.jpg

Synchronized swimming, or synchro for short, has been called the most difficult sport in the Olympic Games.

This year, Anita Alvarez and Mariya Koroleva will be the only swimmers representing the United States in synchronized swimming during the summer games in Rio.

At 9 years old, Koroleva emigrated to the United States from Russia, took up synchro and became so good she swam for Stanford University and competed in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

"You have to show up every day and you have to be on your best game every day, even if you're not feeling well," she said. "You have to push through it."

Alvarez, 19, has synchronized swimming in her blood. Her mother is a former synchro athlete and a current coach. Both athletes said they gave up traditional upbringings to become fierce competitors.

The duo's coach, Lolli Montico, said the athletes are training from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. This will be Montico's third Olympics coaching synchro swimmers.

Montico said the Olympic-caliber swimmers must have two things: legs and attitude.

"Beautiful shapes of the legs — it's so important in synchro," Montico said. "It's the attitude. Attitude is everything."

Koroleva cannot wait for Rio, when all of the hard work is rewarded.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[10 Players the Bears Could Target on Day 2 of NFL Draft]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 12:53:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Chicago+Bears1.png

After selecting Leonard Floyd in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night, the Chicago Bears will have two more picks on Friday as the selection show makes its way through the second and third rounds.

The Bears have the 41st and 75th overall picks in the draft, and will be looking to continue to address a slew of positions where they have serious needs at.

So who could the Bears select on the draft’s second day? We have 10 players that the Bears could keep an eye on as their picks come up on the board.  

Mackensie Alexander, Cornerback – Clemson

The trend in the NFL is to go toward big, athletic cornerbacks, but Alexander could buck that trend with the Bears. He’s elicited comparisons to Josh Norman, and he has the anticipation and excellent coverage skills that could really help out the Bears’ secondary.

Sean Davis, Cornerback – Maryland

If the Bears opt to go with a more versatile and physical player, then Davis could certainly fit that mold. He is an eye-popping hitter with experience at both safety and cornerback, and although his coverage skills aren’t the greatest, he makes up for it by forcing turnovers and taking down ball carriers in open space.

Kevin Dodd, Defensive End – Clemson

Just about everyone thought that Shaq Lawson could be a potential fit for the Bears at number 11, but if the team decides they want to go with a defensive end in round two, then Dodd could be their guy. He’s lightning quick off the line of scrimmage, and he showed some great power off the snap in racking up 12 sacks this season. He has been criticized for his hand technique, but he’s a tireless worker and has been praised for his “high motor” in numerous draft previews.

Christian Hackenberg, Quarterback – Penn State

It seems highly unlikely that the Bears will be able to get Connor Cook in the second round, but if they decide that it’s time to get an heir apparent to Jay Cutler, then Hackenberg could be the guy. His draft stock took a serious dip this season, but there is a reason why he was one of the more highly touted collegiate quarterbacks going into the 2015 season. Putting him with Dowell Loggains and giving him a chance to learn behind Cutler could be just what the doctor ordered in terms of making him into a potential NFL player.

Derrick Henry, Running Back – Alabama

For fans disappointed that the Bears didn’t get a chance to draft Ezekiel Elliott, Henry could be a fascinating consolation prize. He could team up with Jeremy Langford to provide a bruising 1-2 punch out of the backfield next season, and even though there are concerns that the Heisman Trophy winner’s running style could lead to injuries, his physicality could be a welcome addition to the Bears’ offense.

Austin Johnson, Defensive Tackle – Penn State

While the Bears have emphasized speed and athleticism all over their defense, Johnson would provide more in the way of consistency and discipline. He’s a very smart player that is always gap savvy, and although he had some good numbers at the collegiate level, he may not get quite the same number of sacks at the NFL level.

Jarran Reed, Defensive Tackle – Alabama

A surprisingly athletic big man, Reed was targeted as a first round pick but has slipped out of the top 31 selections. If the Bears do opt for another tackle (it would mark the second year in a row they’ve taken a tackle with a high draft pick if they do), then an athletic, ferocious player like Reed could be right up their alley.

A’Shawn Robinson, Defensive Tackle – Alabama

Alabama has two incredible defensive tackles in this draft, and Robinson was a player that some mock drafts pegged as a target for the Bears in round one. He is a guy that has the tools to be successful, but has been criticized for taking plays off and showing poor technique at times. Seems like he would be an Ego Ferguson-type pick if the Bears are willing to roll the dice on him.

Noah Spence, Defensive End – Kentucky

Off-field concerns are something that Ryan Pace and company are going to take very seriously after the Ray McDonald fiasco, and Spence certainly comes with baggage. Banned from Ohio State after several instances of drug use, Spence has cleaned up his act, but will that past trump his impressive on-field production in his final collegiate season at Eastern Kentucky?

Jihad Ward, Defensive End – Illinois

It’s hard to peg where Ward will end up, but he could be a good fit for the Bears. He is a violent tackler and can play both tackle and end (and has room on his frame for more bulk to suit either position), and although he will take a bit of time to develop, he could easily be a versatile weapon if the Bears show some patience. 

<![CDATA[Analysis: Leonard Floyd Completes Bears' Linebacker Overhaul]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 22:50:12 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-181454916.jpg

For the first time in 20 years, the Chicago Bears traded up in the first round of the NFL Draft, taking University of Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd with the ninth overall pick.

It cost the Bears a fourth round draft pick to move up, but with the New York Giants lurking in the 10th spot, the Bears felt it was necessary to make the jump to grab their guy.

But what exactly did the Bears get in Floyd? After all, scouts have knocked his lack of strength in the run-up to the draft, saying that he won’t be able to force his way into the backfield, and he has also had some injury concerns, dealing with a shoulder issue during the 2014 season with the Bulldogs.

Although both of those concerns are legitimate, there is plenty to like about Floyd when it comes to the tape. He is an incredibly fast player on the field, hitting gaps with speed and ferocity. He is also an incredibly versatile player, who can play both inside and outside linebacker in the 3-4 system. He also can play linebacker in a 4-3 defense if Vic Fangio presents different looks, and that will give the team some added incentive to keep teams guessing.

Mike Mayock of the NFL Network had a great comparison for Floyd’s skillset, saying that he is similar to Aldon Smith, who was drafted by Fangio while he was in San Franicsco.

“He has the best burst and get-off in this entire draft,” Mayock said. “He’s a sub-package, designated pass rusher on Day 1, just like Aldon Smith was in San Francisco.”

The Bears went into the NFL Draft dedicated to the idea of improving their speed on defense, and Floyd certainly gives them that element. The Bears could potentially have three new starters in their linebacking corps for 2016, with Jerrell Freeman, Floyd, and Danny Trevathan likely joining Pernell McPhee in the Bears’ system.

Bolstering the front seven is a huge priority for this team, and although they will need to add at least one secondary piece as well, their focus on upgrading their athleticism could have some significant impact in the coming year. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Open Draft in Chicago by Selecting Jared Goff]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 19:16:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/525600350-nfl-draft-2016-chicago.jpg

The NFL Draft in Chicago is officially underway, as the Los Angeles Rams have selected quarterback Jared Goff out of the University of California.

The Rams, who acquired the pick in a blockbuster trade with the Tennessee Titans earlier this month, will start life anew in Los Angeles with the highly touted Goff under center. Goff threw 43 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions for the Golden Bears during his final season at the school, completing 64.5 percent of his passes and throwing for 4719 yards.

With Goff entering the fold, there are now questions surrounding what the team intends to do for a back-up. It seems highly unlikely that the roster will include Nick Foles after the Goff selection, but head coach Jeff Fisher hasn’t indicated what the plan is moving forward for the player.

As for the decision to pick Goff, the Rams opted to not publicize their selection before the draft. The consensus was that the team was going to pick between Goff and North Dakota quarterback Carson Wentz. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Best Style Moves from the NFL Draft Red Carpet]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 08:07:34 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-525682684-elliott.jpg See all the best shots from the 2016 NFL Draft red carpet in Chicago, Illinois, on Thursday, April 28, 2016.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NFL Draft Live Blog: First Round]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 22:59:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/draft+town+GettyImages-525624154.jpg

After a lot of fanfare and plenty of speculation, the 2016 NFL Draft is finally upon us, and the proceedings at the Auditorium Theatre will get underway with the Los Angeles Rams on the clock.

10:45 p.m.: The Arizona Cardinals have a history of taking talented players with off-field issues and turning them into solid producers, and that's what they'll hope to do again as they selected Robert Nkemdiche with the 29th pick. 

The Carolina Panthers used the 30th selection to take defensive tackle Vernon Butler out of Louisiana Tech, and the Seattle Seahawks wrapped up the first round by taking offensive tackle Germain Ifedi with the 31st overall selection. 

10:15 p.m.: The San Francisco 49'ers have traded back into the first round, getting the 28th pick in a swap with the Kansas City Chiefs. Stanford guard Joshua Garnett will be the selection. 

10:11 p.m.: The Green Bay Packers have made their selection grabbing Kenny Clark with the 27th overall pick in the first round. He was an All-Pac 12 recipient in 2015, when he racked up five sacks for the Bruins. 

10:02 p.m.: Well, there will be no trade sending Colin Kaepernick or Sam Bradford to Denver, as the Broncos have selected Paxton Lynch with the 26th overall pick. 

10:00 p.m.: After several teams tried to move up in the first round, it's the Denver Broncos that have pulled the trigger on a deal, moving up to number 26 in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. Could Connor Cook or Paxton Lynch be heading to the Mile High City? 

9:56 p.m.: Artie Burns from Miami is the second straight cornerback taken, as the Pittsburgh Steelers grabbed him with the 25th overall pick. 

9:54 p.m.: The Cincinnati Bengals have found the player they hope will be their next elite corner, as they selected William Jackson III out of Houston. There was plenty of talk that the Bengals would try to find a receiver to pair up with A.J. Green, but they needed to get younger in their secondary, and that's exactly what they'll hope they've done. 

9:47 p.m.: Crete-Monee product Laquon Treadwell is off the board, going to the Minnesota Vikings with the 23rd overall pick. The Vikings only had six touchdowns by receivers during the 2015 season, and Treadwell should provide a great partner for Stefon Diggs as Minnesota looks to shore up their receiver corps. 

9:40 p.m.: Washington makes it back-to-back wide receivers as they take Josh Doctson out of TCU. Many draft experts had him as the top receiver available this season, and his tape reveals why. He had a really nice Combine as well, and he set career records for both yards and touchdowns as a member of the Horned Frogs. 

9:32 p.m.: The Houston Texans have taken Will Fuller, wide receiver out of Notre Dame, with the 21st pick. The Texans moved up one spot in the draft order, swapping picks with Washington. 

9:25 p.m.: The Buffalo Bills snared defensive end Shaq Lawson out of Clemson with the 19th pick, and the New York Jets picked Darron Lee with the 20th pick, giving Ohio State five players selected in the first 20 selections. 

9:11 p.m.: The national champions are finally on the board in this year's NFL Draft, with center Ryan Kelly heading to the Indianapolis Colts. Ever since Jeff Saturday left the organization, the team has needed a significant upgrade in the middle of their offensive line, and he certainly will fill that void there. 

9:08 p.m.: For the second year in a row, the Atlanta Falcons have addressed their defensive needs, taking safety Keanu Neal out of the University of Florida. 

9:01 p.m.: Taylor Decker is the 16th pick, going to the Detroit Lions. The team was in desperate need of offensive line help, as they look to protect Matthew Stafford, and Decker (the fourth Ohio State Buckeye taken in the draft) certainly fills that role. 

8:59 p.m.: Brace yourselves for a shock: the Cleveland Browns actually made a pick. They selected the first wide receiver of the draft, taking Corey Coleman out of Baylor University. The Browns still will need a long-term answer at quarterback even after signing Robert Griffin III, but at least the quarterback will have a solid answer at receiver. 

8:53 p.m.: The Oakland Raiders hope that they've secured a long-term solution at safety, taking Karl Joseph out of West Virignia. 

8:44 p.m.: Laremy Tunsil's free fall is over, as the Miami Dolphins have picked him with the 13th pick. He tumbled down the board after a video that appeared to show the tackle smoking marijuana was posted to his Twitter account just 10 minutes before the draft began. 

8:38 p.m.: The New Orleans Saints have given themselves some serious versatility on their defensive line, taking Sheldon Rankins with the 12th pick. He played both end and tackle at Louisville, and his size and surprising athleticism should make him a really interesting NFL prospect. 

8:29 p.m.: Vernon Hargreaves is the third cornerback off the board, as he has been selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 11th overall pick. He had a solid career with the Florida Gators, and although he's a bit undersized, he has good instincts when playing the ball. 

8:26 p.m.: The New York Giants have selected cornerback Eli Apple out of Ohio State with the 10th overall pick. The Buckeyes have three players in the top 10, marking the first time they have ever accomplished the feat. 

8:11 p.m.: The Chicago Bears have selected linebacker Leonard Floyd out of the University of Georgia. The racked up 55 tackles and six and a half sacks in his final season with the Bulldogs. 

8:09 p.m.: The Chicago Bears have traded up to the number nine pick in the draft, moving up two spots in a swap with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

8:05 p.m.: Jack Conklin is a Tennessee Titan, as the organization moved up to grab him with the eighth pick. He'll be tasked with defending Marcus Mariota's blind side in Nashville, and it represents a solid selection by the Titans' new management group. 

8:02 p.m.: We have the first trade ofthe night, as the Tennessee Titans have moved up to number eight and the Cleveland Browns have moved back to number 15. Who are they taking here? Myles Jack? Jack Conklin? 

7:59 p.m.: Big bummer for Bears fans, as DeForest Buckner will not slide down the board to them. The San Francisco 49'ers will make him the seventh overall pick in the draft. 

7:52 p.m.: For the first time since 2007, no SEC player was selected in the top five of this year's draft class. That streak continued with the sixth pick, as Notre Dame product Ronnie Stanley was selected by the Baltimore Ravens. 

7:45 p.m.: The Jacksonville Jaguars went ahead and snagged the top cornerback in the class, adding Jalen Ramsey out of Florida State. Their defense will have an entirely new look this year, with Ramsey joining the squad and Dante Fowler, Jr. making his debut after missing the 2015 season with a knee injury. 

7:36 p.m.: The Dallas Cowboys aren't used to picking this high in the draft, but they didn't waste any time in making their selection at the fourth spot. They have selected Ezekiel Elliott to make it back-to-back Buckeyes taken in the first round. 

There had been some thought that a team would move up to take Elliott, with his excellent running speed and his penchant for pass blocking, but the Cowboys didn't give anyone the chance. 

7:29 p.m.: No trade for the third pick, as the San Diego Chargers have made their selection. In a bit of a surprise, the Chargers opted for defensive help instead of an elite offensive lineman, taking defensive end Joey Bosa out of The Ohio State University. 

The assumption of many experts heading into the draft was that the Chargers would want to get an elite tackle to help protect Phillip Rivers, who was sacked more than any other quarterback in the NFL last season. 

7:22 p.m.: Carson Wentz is officially a Philadelphia Eagle, as he was selected with the second overall pick. Wentz played just 23 games at North Dakota, with a 20-3 record at the FCS school. Threw 45 career passing touchdowns in his career. 

7:15 p.m.: The Rams have officially made their selection, picking quarterback Jared Goff out of California. 

Goff becomes the fifth quarterback taken in the first round out of California. He threw 43 touchdowns in his final season with the Golden Bears, and was picked ahead of North Dakota quarterback Carson Wentz, who is expected to be taken second by the Philadelphia Eagles. 

6:49 p.m.: Rumors are swirling that the Cleveland Browns are looking to drop down in the draft order. They already have done so once, moving down from the second pick to the eighth, but with a new front office dedicated to analytics, they're trying to acquire as many draft picks as possible. 

Look for a team like the Miami Dolphins to move up, especially if a guy like Ezekiel Elliott is still available on the board. 

The second overall pick was also traded in the lead-up to the draft, with the Philadelphia Eagles acquiring the pick from the Cleveland Browns. The Eagles are expected to use the pick on University of North Dakota QB Carson Wentz, who is then expected to compete with incumbent Sam Bradford (assuming the team doesn’t grant his request for a trade).

As for the Chicago Bears, they will be picking in the 11th spot in this year’s draft. The team picked seventh in 2015, where they selected wide receiver Kevin White out of the University of West Virginia. White didn’t play a single game for the Bears during the season, but he is healthy now and is expected to be a full participant in the team’s offseason workouts and training camp. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Bears Among Most Profitable Franchises in Sports]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 15:24:14 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/4549566741.jpg

If there is ever a question about which sports franchise is king in the Windy City, all the Chicago Bears have to do is point to their bottom line.

That’s because the team is among the most profitable sports franchises in America, according to a new ranking issued by Forbes Magazine. In the rankings, the Bears currently sit in the 18th position, raking in $86 million worth of profits last year.

The Bears were the lone Chicago team to appear in the Top 20 list, joining numerous NFL teams and international soccer clubs in the rankings.

Last September, it was revealed that the Bears were worth an estimated $2.45 billion, according to Forbes. That number puts them as the eighth-most valuable franchise in the NFL, with the Dallas Cowboys sitting in the top spot at a staggering $4 billion.

As for the Cowboys, they ended up in the top spot as the world’s most profitable franchise, raking in an astounding $4As for the Cowboys, they ended up in the top spot as the world’s most profitable franchise, raking in an astounding $270 million last year. The New England Patriots finished in second on the list, with $195 million in profits, and soccer giant Manchester United finished in third with a whopping $190 million. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NFL Draft: Schedule of Events for Thursday in Draft Town]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 15:21:29 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-471750456.jpg

Thursday is finally the big day, as the 2016 NFL Draft kicks off in Chicago, and there are plenty of events that will be taking place for football fans in the Windy City.

Even if fans weren’t lucky enough to snag tickets to the draft itself, which will take place once again at the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University, there are still events that are available free of charge to football fans at Draft Town, located in Grant Park.

Here is the full rundown of events that will be taking place on the draft’s opening day.

12 p.m. – 10 p.m.: Draft Town

The gates to Draft Town will open at noon, and fans will have the opportunity to explore all of the unique features the NFL has put into place this year. Whether it’s taking a stroll through a model NFL locker room, taking a photo with the Lombardi Trophy, or testing your skills in the 40-yard dash or the vertical jump, fans will get to experience life as an NFL player.

4 p.m. – 8 p.m.: NFL Play 60 Clinics

Kids will have the opportunity to participate in football clinics on football fields set up by the league, and spots are available on a first come, first serve basis.

The clinics will be hosted by coaches and NFL players, with Chicago Bears wide receiver Kevin White and Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis both participating in Thursday’s events as the league showcases its Play 60 and Heads Up Football initiatives.

4:45 p.m.: Red Carpet Arrival

For fans fortunate enough to have tickets to the draft, top prospects like Jared Goff and Carson Wentz will be walking the red carpet before entering the Auditorium Theatre for the first round of the draft. It will likely fill up fast, so fans wanting to catch a glimpse of the action should arrive early.

7:00 p.m.: NFL Draft First Round

The first round of the draft will get underway on Thursday night, and even if fans don’t have tickets to the event itself, they can still check out Selection Square for all of the action as NFL teams begin the selection process.

The Bears will pick with the 11th overall selection in the draft. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[11 Players the Chicago Bears Could Target With 11th Pick]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 14:40:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/bears+nfl+draft.jpg

The Chicago Bears will soon be on the clock at the NFL Draft, as the team is slated to pick 11th in the first round of the selection process on Thursday night.

With a boatload of needs and aspirations of becoming competitive within the next season or two, the Bears know that this is a critical draft class for their development, and they simply cannot afford to miss on any of their top picks this year.

With that in mind, we have a list of 11 players that the Bears could conceivably choose from when they go on the clock with the 11th pick. Some of these players will likely be gone when the Bears pick, but it all depends on how things shake out in the selections before the team goes on the clock.

DeForest Buckner, Defensive End – Oregon

The run-up to the draft has been really odd for Buckner, as various mock drafts have had him taken anywhere from third to 15th in the opening round. To be honest, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be a top five pick, with his excellent pass rush ability and his monstrous frame, and if the Bears are fortunate enough to have him drop to them, they’d be crazy not to select him.

Jack Conklin, Offensive Tackle – Michigan State

There are three extremely good offensive tackles available early in the draft, with Ronnie Stanley and Laremy Tunsil also likely to go in the top 10, and Conklin has generated a lot of interest. Some rumors have had the Tennessee Titans moving back into the top 10 to take him, and the New York Giants are also very interested in his services. If the Bears want to lock down their offensive line, he would be a very solid addition.

Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back – Ohio State

Speaking of players that have generated a lot of interest, Elliott is one of the only playmakers available early on in the draft process. Teams like Dallas could certainly find a use for him, and there have been plenty of mock drafts suggesting that the Miami Dolphins could trade up to grab him, but if he’s on the board, it wouldn’t be shocking at all to see Ryan Pace take the best player available.

Leonard Floyd, Outside Linebacker - Georgia

A player that has excellent sack totals and tremendous speed, Floyd could be a great fit for a Bears team looking to shore up their linebacking corps with speedy talent. There are knocks on his physique, as he could be a little too small to play linebacker, but Vic Fangio could still potentially find a use for him if that’s the direction Pace goes.

Vernon Hargreaves III, Cornerback - Florida

Just a bit undersized for a corner, Hargreaves could provide a nice complement to Kyle Fuller if the Bears opt to upgrade at that position. He is really fast and really aggressive, but that can be a bit of a bad thing as he occasionally will overrun routes.

Myles Jack, Linebacker - UCLA

There has been a ton of speculation about how far Jack will fall in the draft, as lingering issues from a torn meniscus continue to drag down his stock. Teams in the upper half of the first round will likely pass on him, as there’s no certainty on his health, but the fact remains that, when healthy, he is likely the most talented player in this draft, and he could be a huge playmaker for any team that takes him.

Darron Lee, Linebacker – Ohio State

The Bears are looking to add an extra dose of aggression and speed to their linebacking corps, and Lee certainly fits that build. An incredible athlete, Lee isn’t the biggest guy on the draft board, but he’ll certainly draw some interest in the middle of the first round and could creep up the board a bit if teams are really nervous about a guy like Jack.

Shaq Lawson, Defensive End - Clemson

Arguably the player most often connected to the Bears, Lawson would add a lot to the Bears’ defensive line if they were to select him. The team is desperately looking for a guy that can make an impact off the edge, and he would be an immediate upgrade at a position that the Bears don’t really have a standout at right now.

Paxton Lynch, Quarterback - Memphis

With Jared Goff and Carson Wentz serving as the undisputed first and second best quarterbacks in this class, the Bears will likely have to look later in the draft to potentially select a Jay Cutler successor, and while Lynch isn’t a very likely pick, Pace could pull a surprise here. He needs work on his timing and his touch, but he is a good decisionmaker and the Bears could look at him as a guy that could develop with proper coaching.

Sheldon Rankins, Defensive Tackle - Louisville

If the Bears are looking for a versatile tackle that can stop both the run and the pass, they may find a winner in Rankins. He is a beefy tackle that has impressive athleticism, and his game film reveals a lot of potential. He played both end and tackle at Louisville, and that versatility could be a big selling point for the Bears.

A’Shawn Robinson, Defensive Tackle – Alabama

If the Bears want to focus on beefing up their run defense, then Robinson would be a really solid pick (although they could potentially trade back in the first round and still have a shot at him). He needs some work as a pass rusher, putting him behind guys like Rankins on most draft boards, but Pace and Fangio still would likely dig his game. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kentucky Derby: Test Your Horse Race Knowledge]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 12:33:14 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP_522153153543.jpg

The 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby will be held May 7 at Churchill Downs, featuring spectacular hats, plenty of bourbon and some of the fastest thoroughbreds in the world. 

Known as the "Greatest Two Minutes in Sports," the Derby is steeped in tradition and style. Grab a mint julep and a Derby hat and test your knowledge of the race with the quiz below.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Cubs Place Miguel Montero on 15-Day Disabled List]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 11:15:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/210*120/GettyImages-485020572.jpg

The Chicago Cubs have been bitten by the injury bug once again, as catcher Miguel Montero has been placed on the 15-day disabled list.

Montero, who is batting .208 with a home run and six RBI for the Cubs so far this season, has been dealing with back stiffness all week long, and the move will put him on the DL retroactive to Monday, according to the club.

Tim Federowicz will join the Cubs to back-up catcher David Ross in Montero’s absence. Federowicz, who hasn’t caught in an MLB game since 2014, has batted .303 with a home run and six RBI for the Cubs’ triple-A affiliate in Des Moines so far this season. He also has coaxed six walks to give himself a solid .415 on-base percentage during his stint in the minors.

If Federowicz can’t join the Cubs in time for Thursday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Montero will remain on the roster as an emergency catcher. Javier Baez could also be tapped to play the position if Ross is injured during the contest, with first pitch scheduled at 1:20 p.m. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LaRoche Tweets Reminder About ‘Take Your Child to Work’]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 08:33:37 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/LaRoche.png

Former Chicago White Sox player Adam LaRoche took to Twitter to remind people to take advantage of being able to take their kids to work Thursday. 

“Don't forget, tomorrow is take your child to work day,” he wrote to his 39,000 followers. 

Of course, you probably remember LaRoche as the player who walked away from professional baseball a dispute about how much time his son Drake was spending with him at work. 

LaRoche announced plans to retire in March week after team president Kenny Williams asked that he stop bringing the 14-year-old to the ballpark on a daily basis. Rather than adhere to that desire, LaRoche opted leave behind his $13 million salary this season.

“I’m not saying this is the way everybody should raise their kid,” LaRoche said in a lengthy interview with ESPN’s Tim Keown. “I’m saying I was given the privilege to raise my kid this way by some awesome teams and managers and GMs. Can every parent do it? No. But we can spend more time with our kids? Sure. I feel like I’ve spent as much time with Drake as you can, and if he were to die tomorrow, I guarantee you I’d be looking back and saying I wish I spent more time with him.” 

Now that he's no longer in baseball, LaRoche said he was planning a lengthy RV trip with his family, and he'll look to continue to dedicate time to fighting underage sex trafficking in Southeast Asia.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cubs, White Sox Making History With Hot Starts]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 06:17:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/cubs+sox.png

Both Chicago baseball teams are off to a red-hot start this season, and historical evidence suggests that fans of both the Cubs and White Sox should be feeling very optimistic about their chances for a championship.

Although the Cubs’ game against the Milwaukee Brewers was rained out on Wednesday night, things are going incredibly well for the squad. They are off to a 15-5 start through their first 20 games of the season, which is their best start through 20 contests since they went 16-4 in the 1907 season. Cubs fans will surely recognize that year, as it marked the team’s first ever World Series championship.

As for the White Sox, things are going just as well for them. After their blowout win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday, the Sox have a 15-6 record and are holding first place in the American League Central division. That mark is their best 21-game start since the 2005 season, when they started out the year 16-5 through their first 21 contests.

That season also marks the last time the White Sox won a World Series championship, the third title in team history and their first since the 1917 season.

While history seems to support the idea of a Cubs or White Sox championship, analytical data also backs it up. According to the website Five Thirty Eight, the Cubs currently have a 91 percent chance of making the postseason, with a league-leading 17 percent chance of winning a title. As for the Sox, their odds aren’t as good, with a 63 percent chance of a playoff berth and a six percent chance of winning a championship. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Corey Crawford Fails to Earn Vezina Trophy Nomination]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 21:04:15 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/crawford+GettyImages-506091184.jpg

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford had one of the best seasons of his career in the 2015-16 campaign, but that wasn’t enough to earn him a nomination for the Vezina Trophy.

The award, given to the league’s best goaltender by the 30 NHL general managers, will be handed out in Las Vegas this summer, but Crawford will not be the recipient. Instead, Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Ben Bishop, Los Angeles Kings star Jonathan Quick, and Washington Capitals standout Braden Holtby will be the three nominees that will have a shot at taking home the hardware.

Crawford ended the season with a 35-18-5 record, a .924 save percentage, and a career-high seven shutouts for the Hawks. Unfortunately for the goaltender, a late season injury robbed him of several starts, and potentially contributed to his being snubbed for award consideration.

A quick look at the save percentages of the three nominees reveal just how annoyed Crawford supporters should be. Bishop did finish in second in the league in the category, with a .926 percentage, and Holtby finished just behind Crawford at .922 on the season. Quick ended up finishing 19th among 41 qualifying goaltenders in the category, stopping .918 of the shots that he faced. 

Realistically, even if Crawford had been nominated, the odds are slim that he would have won. Holtby tied Martin Brodeur’s NHL record for wins in a season, racking up 48 victories and a 2.20 goals against average for the President’s Trophy winning Capitals. He is considered the runaway favorite to win the award in Vegas, with only Bishop holding any conceivable chance of stopping him from doing so.

Crawford has finished in the top-10 in Vezina voting on two occasions, finishing eighth in the 2012-13 season and sixth in 2014-15.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cubs Game Rescheduled Due to Inclement Weather]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 18:21:50 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Wrigley+Field+Bleachers2.jpg

Wednesday's Cubs game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field was postponed due to inclement weather, according to a release from the team.

A make-up date for the game has not been set, but fans are encouraged to hold onto their tickets to use for the re-scheduled game.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[US Women's Hoop Team Named]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 17:16:29 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/2016++Olympic+sue+bird.jpg

The 2016 U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team will have a strong connection to the University of Connecticut.

UConn head women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma is the head coach of the U.S. Olympic team and several of its members have played for him at Storrs.

UConn alums Sue Bird, of the Seattle Storm, and Diana Taurasi, of the Phoenix Mercury, are two of the three captains leading the team. Tamika Catchings, of Indiana Fever, is the other captain.

Former UConn players and 2012 Olympic gold medalists Tina Charles, of the New York Liberty, and Maya Moore, of the Minnesota Lynx, will be back, and UConn star Breanna Stewart is joining the team for the first time.

Another first-time member of the team is Elena Delle Donne, of the Chicago Sky, who was briefly a UConn Husky.

The 2016 U.S. Olympic Team also includes two-time Olympic gold medalists Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles, both of the Minnesota Lynx, as well as 2012 Olympic gold medalists Angel McCoughtry, of the Atlanta Dream, and Lindsay Whalen, of the Minnesota Lynx.

Brittney Griner, of the Phoenix Mercury, is another first-time Olympian.

USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee has chosen the team, which is pending approval by the USOC.

“Obviously it’s always incredibly difficult to try to identify 12 players from a group of so many great players,” Auriemma said in a statement posted on the USA Basketball Web site.

He has led the USA National Team to a 23-0 record and gold medals at the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2010 and 2014 FIBA World Championships.

“The committee had a really difficult job this year, because it's the first time in a long time that a lot more than 12 players could easily have been named to that team. But the 12 that were named are a great combination of Olympic gold-medal experience, multiple gold medal winners and great leaders,” Auriemma said in a statement.

He said an influx of young players will be a great benefit this year and will set the stage going forward.

“They will be the future of the USA Basketball Women's National Team,” he said.

DePaul University’s Doug Bruno, the Minnesota Lynx’ Cheryl Reeve and University of South Carolina’s Dawn Staley will assist Auriemma during the 2016 Olympic Games.

The 2016 Olympic Games will be held from Aug. 5 to 21 in Rio de Janeiro.

Photo Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Image]]>
<![CDATA[Visualizing the Olympics: Medal Counts & More]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 10:05:47 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-149332217-edited.jpg

Photo Credit: Getty Images, file
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<![CDATA[Arrieta Assails 'Idiots' Who Accuse Him of Steroid Use]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2016 19:17:31 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/ArrietaThrows.jpg

Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta has amazed fans with his transformation from fringe-big leaguer to Cy Young Award winner, but rumors that the hurler used illegal means to achieve his newfound fame clearly don’t sit well with him.

In a new interview with USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, Arrieta addresses rumors that he’s used steroids to turn his career around, and he had some strong words for those accusing him.

“I’ve heard players, and I’m talking about some of the best players in the league, question whether I’ve taken steroids or not,” he said. “Some of the things I hear are pretty funny, and some people are idiots, frankly.”

“The 10 tests I take a year say otherwise. I eat plants. I eat lean meat. I work out. And I do things the right way,” he added.

Arrieta, who was sent down to the minor leagues by the Baltimore Orioles before he was traded to the Cubs in 2013, has seen his career exploded since he came to the North Side. He won 22 games and the N.L. Cy Young Award in 2015, and he’s thrown two no-hitters in his last 11 regular season starts, including one last week against the Cincinnati Reds.

With strict penalties in place for players that fail drug tests, Arrieta knows that any untoward actions could have serious consequences on the team and the fans in Chicago.

“There are so many people that are counting on you, and leaning on all of us in this clubhouse to do some special things for the city of Chicago,” he said. “To jeopardize that by taking banned substances would be a ridiculous mistake.”

After many iterations, the latest version of MLB’s drug policy calls for an 80-game suspension for a first time offender, and Arrieta approves of the league’s tough stance on illegal substances.

“If there are guys still on it, I hope they get caught,” he said. “I care about the integrity of the game.” 

<![CDATA[Blues' Organist Delivers 'Chelsea Dagger' to Blackhawks After Loss]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2016 18:24:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-524252222.jpg

For the Chicago Blackhawks, the song “Chelsea Dagger” is usually a welcome tune, indicating that they have scored a goal and becoming a song very closely associated with the team.

On Monday night in St. Louis, the tune took on a whole new meaning for the Hawks.

As the Blackhawks and Blues went through the traditional handshake line following the conclusion of their epic seven game series, the Blues’ organist played “Chelsea Dagger,” much to the delight of fans at the Scottrade Center.

Here is the video:

The song, which the Blackhawks have used throughout their recent run of success in the Stanley Cup playoffs, is usually one that fans get into at the Madhouse on Madison, but something tells us that the fans in red that descended on St. Louis weren’t exactly thrilled at hearing it after the Hawks lost Game 7 by a 3-2 margin to the Blues. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Road to Rio: Join in Olympic Fever 100 Days Out]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 10:01:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/gymnasts-olympics.jpg

The Rio Olympics are only 100 days away, and the buzz is all about who will represent Team USA.

While many athletes have earned their spots and a chance to bring home the gold, others will be vying for a place on the team over the coming weeks when swimming, gymnastics and other sports hold trials.

Golf returns to the Olympics after an absence of more than a century, and the sports world is full of predictions about who will be teeing off for the United States. But with each team limited to four players, many favorites will be staying home.

Then there is the Zika virus, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just concluded is causing microcephaly and other birth defects. Brazil’s health ministry has been working to ease visitors’ fears, but some athletes are weighing whether to give the Rio Games a pass.

As 10,500 athletes from across the globe prepare to compete in the first Olympics to be held in South America, here are some ways to follow along now:

Watch America's best earn a trip to Rio

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Many spots on Team USA won't be finalized until just before before the Opening Ceremony. Trials for some of the most popular events — including swimming and diving, track and field and gymnastics — have yet to be held. 

That means you can watch your favorite athletes battle for a trip to Rio de Janeiro. On the calendar in June: diving in Indianapolis from June 18-26, men’s gymnastics in St. Louis from June 24-26, and swimming in Omaha, Nebraska, from June 26 to July 3.

On the calendar in July: track and field in Eugene, Oregon, from July 1-10, and women’s gymnastics in San Jose, California, from July 8-10.

So far, about 100 athletes have qualified in sports from boxing to wrestling. By the time August arrives, more than 500 athletes will have made the team. NBC Olympics is keeping track of the competitors here.

Pentathlete Nathan Schrimsher became the first official member of the U.S. Olympic team last July when he finished third in the 2015 Pan American Games. The 23-year-old will compete in the Olympics for the first time. The modern Olympic pentathlon consists of swimming, fencing, riding and a combination of running and shooting.

In the qualifying marathon in Los Angeles in February, Galen Rupp, Meb Keflezighi and Jared Ward won the top three places for the men, and Amy Cragg, Desi Linden and Shalane Flanagan for the women.

Triathletes Gwen Jorgensen and Sarah True have snagged spots, as have Yue Jennifer Wu, a table tennis competitor, and Jordan Wilimovsky, Sean Ryan and Haley Anderson, all open water swimmers.

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At the London 2012 Games, American women outnumbered American men in total medals and gold medals, and they are expected to dominate again in Rio. The U.S. women’s teams are world champions in basketball, gymnastics, soccer, volleyball and water polo, and all eyes are on Claressa Shields, the first American woman to win Olympic gold in boxing at the London Games; gymnast Simone Biles, three-time world all-around champion; swimmer Katie Ledecky, an Olympic gold medalist at 15; and tennis star Serena Williams. 

In basketball, the final names for men’s and women’s teams will be announced by July 18. Among the finalists are LeBron James — though he says he is undecided about Rio — and Carmelo Anthony for the men’s team, and Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird, both three-time gold medalists, for the women’s.

The U.S. women’s soccer team qualified for the Games, though the men’s team failed to, and its roster also must be announced by July 18.

And U.S. women’s water polo team goes to the Games as the reigning Olympic gold medalists. The team qualified by finishing in the top four in a tournament in March in the Netherlands, where it went undefeated and outscored opponents 123-35.

Who won’t be going?

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Some of the country’s top stars will not be making the trip, sidelined by injuries and for other reasons.

Kobe Bryant announced he would not play in Rio after retiring from the Los Angeles Lakers because he thought it was a younger man’s turn to play. Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers also withdrew from consideration, while New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis was forced out by knee and shoulder injuries.

In soccer, Sydney Leroux and Megan Rapinoe were both on the U.S. women’s World Cup team, but they will not be in Rio. Leroux is pregnant and Rapinoe is injured. Goalkeeper Hope Solo said in February that she would skip Rio if the games were being held then because of her fears of Zika.

Zika virus continues to be a worry

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The CDC released travel guidelines that urge talking to your health provider about recommended vaccines and medicines, packing a health kit and monitoring travel warnings from the U.S. Department of State. Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should take special precautions.

Much is still being learned about the virus, which has been linked to birth defects and which researchers have discovered can be transmitted sexually, not just through mosquito bites.

In February, the head of the World Health Organization praised the Brazilian government for its handling of the outbreak, but warned the situation could get worse before it gets better. Brazil has stressed that the mosquito population is much lower in August, the country’s winter.

Golf's Olympic comeback

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Golf returns for the first time since 1904, when only the United States and Canada competed — and a Canadian won the individual gold.

Among the United States’ best prospects: Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler.

But some of the world's top players have said they will be giving the Games a pass. Vijay Singh, from Fiji, was the first to say he would not play. South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel have pulled out, citing family and scheduling issues, and Adam Scott of Australia also pointed to a busy schedule when he said he would skip Rio.

Golf’s crowded schedule of championships has been a concern for players, but golf legend Jack Nicklaus is worried about the message they send by withdrawing.

“If the guys don't want to participate, then we might not be in the Olympics after this,” he told Golf Digest. “They vote next year. And if they vote to keep golf in, then that's great, but if not then we lose that momentum with growing the game.”

Before the vote to reinstate golf — 72 holes of stroke play for 60 men and 60 women — superstar Michelle Wie and champion Padraig Harrington urged their sport’s inclusion before the International Olympic Committee. But the vote covered only 2016 and 2020; another vote will be held next year to decide if it will be back in 2024.

Michael Phelps will swim for the USA for the last time

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In his final Games, Phelps will become the first U.S. male swimmer to compete in five Olympics. The most decorated Olympic competitor ever, he has won 18 gold medals, plus two silver and two bronze.

His return follows his second drunk driving arrest two years ago and a stint in rehab. He was suspended for six months from USA Swimming but returned to the pool last spring.

Jillian Macdonald and Nick Zaccardi contributed information to this article.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Fans React to Disappointing Game 7 Loss]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2016 09:04:20 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000017521912_1200x675_673839683576.jpg “There’s always next year” wasn't something we were prepared to have to say about our Chicago Blackhawks Monday night. NBC 5's Lauren Petty reports.]]> <![CDATA[NFL Team Wants Supreme Court to Take Trademark Case]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2016 03:42:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-453831984.jpg

The Washington Redskins want the Supreme Court to take up their trademark battle with the government over whether their name is offensive, which could jeopardize whether the team can make money from the name.

The case, in which the U.S. Patent Office found the name was derogatory to Native Americans, is supposed to be heard by a Richmond appeals court. But according to court documents reviewed by NBC News, lawyers for the team want the Supreme Court to intervene.

Attorneys said the high court may take up a similar case from a rock band fighting a battle over their name, The Slants, which the founder says reclaims a slur against Asians; the attorneys want the two cases heard together, since they may hinge on the same 1946 law.

The Redskins' legal battle started last year when the U.S. Patent and Trademark office rejected the Redskins trademark, agreeing with five Native American people who said the name is offensive. 

The patent ruling, if upheld, would not mean the team must change its name, only that it could not protect its trademark from others using it.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, file]]>
<![CDATA[Quest for Cup Comes to Early End: Hawks Eliminated in Game 7]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2016 07:08:36 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Patrick+Kane1.png

The Chicago Blackhawks' comeback attempt came up short on Monday night as they were defeated by the St. Louis Blues 3-2 and eliminated from the postseason. 

Troy Brouwer scored with 11 and a half minutes to go in the third period, and his goal was enough to eliminate his former team and push the Blues into a second round matchup with the Dallas Stars. 

After an icing, the Blues kept possession of the puck in the offensive zone, and they ultimately scored. Duncan Keith also had a turnover during the sequence, and a Jay Bouwmeester shot toward the net was deflected home by Jori Lehtera to give St. Louis a 1-0 advantage. 

The Blackhawks' offense got off to a sluggish start, and St. Louis continued to hammer away at Corey Crawford. Patrik Berglund was denied on a breakaway attempt a few minutes after the Lehtera goal, and Alex Steen was robbed of an opportunity thanks to a quick Brent Seabrook stick. Finally, Scottie Upshall rang a shot loudly off the post as the Blues continued to press. 

Finally, the Blues scored the key second goal and extended their lead. Colton Parayko did the honors, taking advantage of a screen in front of Crawford as he blasted a slapshot home to put St. Louis ahead 2-0. 

Slowly but surely, the Blackhawks began to generate opportunities, and they scored with about a minute and a half to go in the first period. Marian Hossa collected the puck and entered the offensive zone with speed, and wristed a shot over Brian Elliott's glove to make it a 2-1 game after 20 minutes of action. 

Early in the second period, the Hawks got a power play after a Kevin Shattenkirk penalty, and they scored in short order. Andrew Shaw attempted a feed across the ice, but Bouwmeester accidentally deflected the puck through Elliott's pads and in to knot things up at 2-2. 

At the end of the frame, the Blues absolutely peppered the Blackhawks with shots, but nothing would go through. Crawford came out of the top of his crease to rob Vladimir Tarasenko with a glove save, and then Brent Seabrook stopped two straight shots, including a Steen blast with an open net, and helped keep the game tied with one period to go. 

After a tentative start for both teams, it took a bad turnover to turn the tide, and the Blues were the ones that benefitted. An Erik Gustafsson giveaway in the neutral zone led to a quick-fire Blues possession, and ultimately Troy Brouwer popped home a loose puck in front of the net to give the Blues a 3-2 lead. 

The Blackhawks had their fair share of chances to tie the game up, but the best one was also the most agonizing. Seabrook hammered a shot from the point that hit traffic in front and then hit both posts, improbably staying out of the net and leaving the Blues in front. 

Ultimately, the Blackhawks were unable to score, and their season came to an end as the Blues celebrated advancing out of the first round for the first time in four years. 

St. Louis will next take the ice later this week when they head to Dallas to take on the Stars in the second round of the postseason. 

<![CDATA[Blackhawks vs. Blues: Three Keys to a Game 7 Victory]]> Mon, 25 Apr 2016 17:29:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/blackhawks+bluesGettyImages-521056044.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks have come back from the brink of elimination on numerous occasions during their current run of success, and on Monday they’ll attempt to do it once again as they take on the St. Louis Blues in a winner-take-all Game 7.

To get to this point, the Blackhawks had to overcome sloppy play to win Game 5 in St. Louis on Thursday, and they had to overcome a two-goal deficit on Saturday night before winning a 6-3 battle at the United Center to force Monday’s contest.

So how can the Blackhawks complete another improbable comeback and advance to a second-round date with the Dallas Stars?

Third Line Forechecking a Must

One of the big advantages the Blackhawks have had in their last two games has been their newly constructed third line, which has played a huge role defensively for the team as they’ve largely kept the Blues’ offense at bay.

That line, which features Marian Hossa in a new role, has been a big factor because of their ability to relentlessly forecheck and force turnovers both in the neutral zone and in the offensive zone. The team as a whole did a good job of doing this in the final 40 minutes of Saturday’s game, but that third line was the straw that stirred the drink in that regard.

With the Blues likely focusing their defensive resources to stopping the Blackhawks’ top line, it will fall on the team’s third line to play the stopper role against the Blues’ top offensive players. Guys like Hossa and Andrew Ladd will be key to stopping Vladimir Tarasenko and company, and their ability to battle will help determine the outcome of this game.

Take Care of the Puck

The Blackhawks have minimized turnovers after a couple of disastrous outings in Games 3 and 4, but Game 6 saw some worrying trends. A few turnovers led to big St. Louis scoring chances, with players like Richard Panik helping to minimize the damage.

If the Blackhawks are going to finish off this comeback, then they absolutely must take care of the puck. Crisp passes out of the defensive zone are an absolute must, as are passes at the point during even strength and power play situations. The Blues are incredibly aggressive in deploying both forwards and defensemen to jump passing lanes, and careless passes are likely to get intercepted and turned around for great scoring chances for St. Louis.

Avoid Dramatic Momentum Swings

If there was one thing that was at fault for the Blackhawks’ first period deficit on Saturday, it was the effect of momentum on the proceedings.

After all, Andrew Desjardins’ narrow miss of a goal in the offensive zone was immediately followed by the Blues’ first goal of the game at the other end of the ice. Two more goals quickly followed for St. Louis, who took full advantage of some lethargy on the part of the Blackhawks.

In order to stay in Game 7 and ultimately win it, the Blackhawks have to try to avoid such drastic swings of emotion and game play. The Blues are going to come out firing to start the game, and they’ll look for any opportunity to prove that it’s the Blackhawks that should have their collective backs against the wall. It will be crucial for the Hawks’ veteran presence to be a factor and to avoid digging themselves into a hole with an inconsistent effort.