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Practice Notebook: A Different Summer, A Different World (8/31/20)

| August 31st, 2020

Saturday would have been the third preseason game; the final opportunity for those trying to grab the 2-3 spots at the bottom of the roster. Instead Saturday was just another Saturday, and the last time any laymen would have an opportunity to look at the 2020 Chicago Bears before their season opener.


How Different This Summer Has Been

Writing about an NFL team has a seasonal rhythm to it. After the dead period of May and June, July begins a slow, deliberate crescendo to the nervously thrilling first whistle of opening day. In my case, there’s always a boozy, beachy Labor Day weekend that serves as a calm before the season’s storm. Then that Tuesday it’s all day, every day, until the season ends. Not this year, except for the boozy bit.

No fans at training camp has meant no leaked video or secretive email reports. These usually start flooding my email box on the first day of camp and don’t stop. And honestly, they’re pretty helpful. Last year, while many were excited about the prospect of Riley Ridley making a rookie impact, I was getting word early on that the kid was completely overwhelmed by the professional game. Turned out to be the truth.

The media isn’t shown anything of worth anymore and now can’t say much about what they are shown. So we’re left with scraps of reports.

No joint practices or preseason games means there’s nothing to which we can tangibly react, which has predictably taken all the dramatic steam out of the quarterback competition. This summer, for the first time since I started doing this, I was excited for the preseason because it was going to determine the starting quarterback.

Instead the season will just…start. Sunday September 13th will come. We will all wake up, have our breakfast, settle into our routines, and the game will begin. And fans across the league will be surprised by what they see.


Statement from Chicago Bears Players

Like many in the sports world, the Bears took a pause on Thursday to meet and discuss the racial issues facing our country. Their statement:

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Thursday Lynx Package (8/6/20)

| August 6th, 2020


  • Who provided the most in-depth look at Mitch Trubisky’s competition preparation? Unsurprisingly, it’s a guy I used to drink with in bars when that kind of thing was allowed: Adam Jahns. And in his piece for The Athletic he gives plenty of reason for Mitch loyalists to believe the young signal caller is capable of finally turning a corner. My two cents? I just don’t understand what he’s done to earn another shot. If I’m the Bears, I tell Mitch that Nick Foles is starting the opener but to keep his arm warm in the bullpen.
  • This spring I got into a somewhat public Twitter spat with Stacey Dales for having the gumption to challenge an opinion of hers. Now full reporting shows that Aaron Rodgers (a) was pissed at the selection of a first-round QB and (b) is openly discussing the end of his tenure with the organization. I get that some in the sports media get overly protective of those they cover to protect access. But this was dumb argument by a smart reporter. You’d have to know absolutely nothing about Rodgers to think he wouldn’t be offended by the pick.
  • Kelly Stafford went a bit ballistic when it turned out Matt Stafford’s Covid-19 test was a false positive. “I have been losing my mind because of how my Family has been treated since my husband was put on the Covid-IR list,” Kelly, who has four children with Matt, said. “Even after we knew it was a false positive, I was approached in a grocery store told I was ‘endangering others,’ my kids were harassed and kicked off a playground, I was told I needed to wait in my car when trying to pick up food, and people closest to us had to get tested just so they could go back to work… and that’s just to name a few things.” Kelly has battled significant health issues and I understand her frustration. But all the things she suggests here are the PROPER PRECAUTIONS TO TAKE with a positive test. If it’s false positive, great. But before that is known, you can’t just pretend it’s life as usual.
  • IN ACTUAL BEAR NEWS: Here are some bears “pole dancing” in West Hartford.

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Thursday Lynx Package (7/16/20)

| July 16th, 2020


Here’s five valuable things to read. Read em, don’t, I can’t really worry about it. It’s your life.

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Thursday Links Package

| May 28th, 2020


This is the quietest time on the football calendar, the lull between the the NFL Draft and the start of training camps. So here’s some stuff worth reading. Read it, don’t, I don’t care.

  • Dan Pompei’s excellent piece detailing the battle scars of Kyle Long is a painful NFL read. One of the things that has often surprised me is the general obliviousness many fans have when it comes to the physical toll football takes on the bodies of these young, strong men. None of those fans will look at the game the same way after reading this staggering work.
  • The Bears were very good on defense in 2019. But they weren’t good enough to compensate for a putrid offense. Adam Jahns breaks down the Robert Quinn signing and just how good that unit will need to be to return to the postseason in January.
  • Is Cole Kmet a Y? Is he a U? Is he some other letter? Here’s what I know: he’s an impressive young man with whom the coaches are already in love. Adam Hoge at NBC Sports Chicago discusses his early days as a Bear and where he’ll fit in the 2020 offensive structure.
  • The Arlington Hambright Section!
  • From Mark Potash’s piece on Roquan Smith in the Sun-Times: “Despite the issues he has had in his first two seasons, Smith has been as good as advertised. His sideline-to-sideline speed, his instincts and his versatility — the ability to rush the quarterback, be a tackling machine and defend in coverage — give him a dangerous skill set for an inside linebacker. So far, he’s clearly general manager Ryan Pace’s best first-round pick. But by the eye test and Smith’s own testimony, he has a lot more to give.”

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Thursday Links Package

| May 30th, 2019

It’s truly the only period of off-season for the NFL. Other than the rare injury at an OTA, nothing of relevance takes place until teams report to training camp. Here are some links for you to enjoy.

[Side Note: When searching for links, I was amazed at just how many blogs there are now and how shitty most of them are.]


  • “On an anger scale of one to 10, cornerback Prince Amukamara thinks he’s seen new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano reach a three at most during the Bears’ offseason program.” Adam Jahns of The Athletic (still not used to this) on why the Bears defense doesn’t need continuity in the transition from Fangio to Pagano. It needs change. (Jahns will be back on a pod with me in the coming weeks.)
  • “I didn’t want to blow the opportunity,” the intensively private McCaskey told the Sun-Times last week in a rare sitdown interview commemorating the team’s upcoming 100th season. “I didn’t want them to think of me as some little old lady that’s just hanging around. And, ‘What’s she really doing here?’

    “I wanted to let them know how much I cared about the team, and all of them.”

    A little old lady?

    “Well,” she said, smiling, “I am.” That’s an excerpt from Patrick Finley’s excellent sit down with Virgina McCaskey on the newly-designed (and wonderful) Sun-Times website.

  • J.J. Stankevitz of NBC Sports on expectations for David Montgomery in year one: “There are some clips that you can go back and forth and watch and say man, (Montgomery) kind of reminds me of Kareem,” Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Manning said. “And you go back to cuts from (Hunt) too and you’re like man, that’s kind of strange, it looks a little like David there in that sense. They’re different, but I do think there are some similarities.”

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Packers/Bears, Pass Interference, Ted Phillips & More!

| March 28th, 2019


Packers at Bears to Open Season

My Thoughts:

  • I hate it. The opening Sunday of NFL football is my favorite day of the entire year and if the Bears are not playing in that early window it is ruined for me. (Hopefully the Bills are home that weekend so I can make something of the whole experience. I’ll just go up there and eat the world’s best wings and drink Blue Light.)
  • I hate it. Bears/Packers – and all important divisional games – should be scheduled for later in the season. None of these teams are playing their best football in September. I’ll continue fighting for the NFL to move all out of conference games to the first month of the calendar.
  • I hate it. Because it means the NFL is all-in on the 2019 Chicago Bears and that means the club will be all over primetime television next season.


Reviewing Pass Interference

The league had a pass interference problem, more than any other piece of officiating. Bad pass interference calls were destroying the flow of the viewing experience and in many cases deciding game outcomes. That issue reached its peak in the NFC title game on the other side, with a no-calling putting the Rams in the Super Bowl.

Will this rule change – allowing PI to be challenged – extend games? Who cares? I can handle football games being 5 minutes longer if the calls are right. (And the networks could cut down commercials with ease and nobody would notice.) Will this rule change open the floodgates to challenging all penalties? No. Challenging a hold or a shift or something menial will be as difficult to overturn as challenging a spot. And if they allowing roughing the passer to be challenged, they’d be smart.

Just check out how video replay is working in the Premiere League. They’re getting calls right. It’s wonky, yes. Nobody is quite sure how to deal with the change in flow. But they’re getting calls right. That’s all that matters.


Jahns with Ted Phillips

You should read all of Adam Jahns’ excellent conversation with Ted Phillips. But here’s a passage that shows why Ted is good at his job and has been instrumental in bringing these Bears back:

As Pace explained the positives — from Mack’s age to him playing a “need” position to his lack of baggage — Phillips said that trading for him started to make too much sense.

“I don’t need to have four committee meetings and let’s discuss it all,” Phillips said. “That’s why you have to have the right people in place.

“You have to be decisive. It wasn’t a long, drawn-out, lengthy discussion. Once I understood it all — because [Pace] never leaves a stone unturned, he’s very thorough — and when I hear it all, it’s, ‘Go get him.’ ”

And Pace did.

Jahns will be joining me for an extended conversation (podcast) in the coming week.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Massie Extends, McCaskey Speaks, Jahns Writes & Bear Movies!

| January 28th, 2019


Bobby Massie Inks Extension

Many folks around the Bears blogosphere (and beyond) like to DM me when players are negotiating (or thought-to-be negotiating) contracts. There are two reasons for this: (1) They know I have friends inside the building and (2) I’m rarely, if ever, going to publish the information myself before it becomes public. That is why I’m still able to acquire the information I do. But I’m usually happy to confirm stuff.

Here’s what I know about the Massie deal:

  • During the season, several people inside the the Bears commented to me that Massie was playing at an outstanding level. Offensive linemen are very difficult for the average fan (and folks like PFF) to evaluate because it’s all about assignment football. When the Bears sat down and did their post-season roster evaluation they determined Massie was going to be impossible to bring back should he hit the open market, especially with tackle-needy teams like Buffalo and the New York Jets having buckets of money to spend.
  • The money isn’t a big deal but it values Massie as one of the best right tackles in the sport. I have news for you. He was every bit that in 2018.
  • The organization’s attention has now moved to their other in-house free agents: Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan.
    • Amos’ agents are pains in the ass and they passed on an extension last off-season, citing the PFF grades as reason the Bears were low-balling their client. Bears don’t view Amos as a top safety. And they won’t pay him like one.
    • Two things on Callahan: (1) He’s switched to Roquan Smith’s agents. (2) He’s got a chronic hip issue that he’s learned to manage over the last few years but that many inside the organization believe leads to his frequent injuries. The Bears want him back. The locker room loves him. But his health history and position make the deal tricky.

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DaBearsPod on the Bye with the Legendary Adam Jahns [AUDIO]

| October 5th, 2018

On this episode of DaBearsPod:

  • (1:24) Jeff joins Trent Condon on the radio in Des Moines to break down the first quarter. For a few of the questions, he had no answer, so…
  • (12:59) The great Adam Jahns from a hotel room in Ottawa! He weighs in on the mood at Halas Hall, the impact of Khalil Mack and the offensive futures of Jordan Howard , Kevin White, James Daniels…etc.
  • (32:17) Reverend Dave on God and the 2018 Chicago Bears. They have something in common.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Tru’s Team, Shaheen Excites, LongJahns & More!

| July 27th, 2018

Three Quick Player Thoughts

  • Adam Shaheen. He’s not getting a ton of attention from those circling the barren wasteland of Bourbonnais but I’m told by highly reliable folks Matt Nagy is as enamored with the potential of Shaheen as any other offensive player on the roster. The young TE had an almost-impossible transition from Nowheresville, Ohio to the NFL last season and it made harder by an offensive coaching staff uninterested in aiding that transition for a raw rookie. This staff sees big play potential from their big tight end. Immediately.
  • Mitch Trubisky. His early camp results? Up and down. Throwing too many picks but displaying all the explosiveness and ability that made him the second pick. It’ll be very interesting to see how much of this new offense Nagy rolls out in the preseason, especially with Green Bay in primetime to open the campaign. But the most important thing happening to Tru this summer is simply being allowed to BE the damn quarterback and make the important mistakes.
  • Kevin Toliver & Kylie Fitts. The Bears are a very strange roster right now, with a ton of potential up and down it. But these two players, both off to impressive starts, have the ability to elevate an already good to elite level if they make a significant impact in 2018.

It’s Cold. Put On Your LongJahns.

In Adam the Legend’s camp takeaways column, there was a passage that caught my eye:

From Allen Robinson to Marlon Brown at receiver and from Trey Burton to Colin Thompson at tight end, every skill player has gotten a chance to play with Trubisky or backup Chase Daniel. Running back Tarik Cohen has even caught passes from third-stringer Tyler Bray in camp.

At some point, the constant rotations will end. Robinson, Burton, Cohen and other starters will settle in for more advanced work with Trubisky.

But those rotations are part of the learning process for all players right now. Nagy wants it that way. Kevin White seemingly has benefitted from it. He has been targeted plenty throughout camp by Trubisky and Daniel.

“Right now, there’s zero game-planning going into this thing,” Nagy said. “It’s, ‘Everybody learn everything,’ and then what we do as evaluators and coaches is we see who does what well.

“There might be somebody that runs a route really well but can’t run another route to save his life, so we don’t do that. We put those guys in the right spots, and then we try to time it up with the quarterbacks.”

Hallelujah. Too often new coaches come to an organization with their pre-designed cargo pants and try to fit players into the pockets. They acquire a player who can do X, a player who can do Y, a player who can do Z. Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich, along with Ryan Pace, went out this offseason and acquired a ton of offensive talent. Guys who can do a ton of different things. Now they’re allowing that talent to show them what works and what doesn’t. Rather ingenious if you ask me.

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Audibles: Enthusiasm Grows, Cutler Stars, Gabriel Catches & More!

| July 13th, 2018

Three Thoughts on the Bears

  • Mentioned it on KFAN in Minnesota earlier in the week but I can’t remember this much enthusiasm and excitement around the Bears heading into a season. This might be the most I’ve seen since 2005 – the Year of the Blog – and that season’s optimism seemed to dwindle with Rex Grossman’s summer injury. (I wrote and produced my first play that year so it took me a month to get sad.) The Bears don’t believe they’re going to be 8-8 this season. They believe they’ll be playing football in January.
  • Had drinks with an NFL GM Monday afternoon and he summed up the Bears off-season perfectly: “They did everything right. But right in the spring isn’t always right in the fall.”
  • This is more anecdotal than anything else but the player other fans and media covering other teams keep bringing up to me is Anthony Miller. There’s a real buzz about him in league circles. I’d still keep expectations low for any rookie wide receiver entering a new offense with this many pass-catching options but many others are not, including Miller himself.

Jay Cutler: Television Star

What makes me laugh is that many of us knew Cutler’s personality was incredible. It just wasn’t a Peyton-Manning-endless-quarterback-cliches-that-talking-heads-love personality. He has no patience for morons and apparently this program is chock full of them. (I will never watch a single episode of it on TV. Ten second clips are just fine.)

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