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Jennings, Tillman 1-2 in Pro Bowl voting

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 14, 2012 – 4:45 pm

Eleven Bears players rank in the top five at their respective positions in fan balloting for the NFC Pro Bowl team, the NFL announced Wednesday.

Tim Jennings (116,347 votes) and Charles Tillman (80,604) are the top vote-getters at cornerback, while Henry Melton (98,957) leads all defensive tackles.

Brandon Marshall (153,574) is second behind the Giants’ Victor Cruz (257,016) at receiver and Major Wright (46,976) is second behind the Packers’ Charles Woodson (53,531) at strong safety.

Kick returner Devin Hester (43,315) and special teams standout Blake Costanzo (25,209) are third; inside linebacker Brian Urlacher (55,465) and kicker Robbie Gould (24,344) are fourth; and defensive end Julius Peppers (70,082) and outside linebacker Lance Briggs (67,062) are fifth.

Pro Bowl voting will continue online and on mobile phones via NFL.com/probowl through Monday, Dec. 17. The teams will be announced at 6 p.m. (CT) on Wednesday, Dec. 26 on NFL Network’s “NFL Total Access.”

The Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, a week before Super Bowl XLVII, and televised live on NBC at 6 p.m. (CT) from Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.

The all-star squads are based on the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group’s vote counts one-third toward determining the 43-man rosters that represent NFC and AFC. NFL players and coaches will cast their votes Dec. 20-21.

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Gould backtracks from critical comments

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 14, 2012 – 4:22 pm

After criticizing the Soldier Field grounds crew for not covering the playing surface before Sunday night’s game against the Houston Texans, Bears kicker Robbie Gould offered an apology.

The field reportedly was covered from Friday through Sunday morning. It didn’t begin raining until about two hours before the 7:20 p.m. game, and NFL rules require that tarps be off the field 90 minutes before kickoff, a process that takes about 30 minutes.

“I need to apologize to the grounds crew at Soldier Field and our grounds crew for my recent comments regarding the field,” Gould said. “I have since learned a lot more about the NFL’s policies and the measures that are taken at Soldier Field to ensure a reliable and safe playing surface. It was my mistake to speak prior to having a full understanding.”

Co-hosting a radio show Tuesday night on ESPN 1000, Gould complained about the field being soft and uneven.

“I don’t know what’s happening,” Gould said. “This year our field has been really bad. It’s been tore up. There have actually been some places on the field where some portions of it have actually sunk to a new low level, and the other spots are high.”

Bears coach Lovie Smith was asked about Gould’s critical comments.

“You have to talk to Robbie about that,” Smith said. “To me, our surface, I mean, it’s November in Chicago. There’s a certain type of surface you’re going to get at Soldier Field. If it is soft and things like that, to me it’s to our advantage. That’s the only way we can look at it.

“Field-wise, there are different surfaces you’re going to play on. As long as both teams are playing on the surface, that’s never going to be an issue you’re going to hear me talk about.”

Bears general manager Phil Emery also weighed in on the issue later Wednesday.

“I very much appreciate our relationship with SMG and the Chicago Park District,” Emery said in a statement.  “We have assembled a strong team of members from our staff and theirs that work together to evaluate the field and keep it in excellent condition. They have done a great job working with us to ensure we have the best playing surface for our players.”

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Niners in same boat as Bears

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 14, 2012 – 3:06 pm

While the Bears aren’t sure whether Jay Cutler will be able to play Monday night in San Francisco due to a concussion, the 49ers are facing a similar scenario with their starting quarterback.

Alex Smith exited Sunday’s 24-24 tie against the Rams in the second quarter after sustaining a concussion that caused blurred vision. He was replaced by second-year pro Colin Kaepernick, who completed 11 of 17 passes for 117 yards and an 84.7 passer rating.

“In this game injuries happen and your backup has to be ready,” Smith said. “Their backup was ready, played most of the game last week and led them back after they were down, so I’m sure they’re going to go with Plan 2 and feel pretty good about it like we do.”

Kaepernick, a 2011 second-round draft pick from Nevada, showed his athleticism by rushing for 66 yards and one touchdown on eight attempts against the Rams.

“He’s a heck of an athlete,” Smith said. “They’ve played him some before. He’s come in in the past and had more Wildcat-type plays, but last week he came in and really got into a rhythm. As I said, he is a good athlete. He can take off when the pass isn’t there, so I think they’re feeling pretty good about their chances with him like we are [with backup Jason Campbell].”

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