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Urlacher unhappy with double standard

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 15, 2012 – 2:33 pm

With the NFL on a mission to raise awareness about head injuries and concussions, Brian Urlacher wonders why nothing’s ever said about offensive linemen diving at the legs of defensive players.

“They shouldn’t allow cut blocks because our knees are important to us too,” Urlacher said. “I know concussions are a big deal, but I think cut blocks are a big deal. But that seems to be OK with the NFL, so they’re not too concerned about safety.

“They’re concerned about long-term concussions, but immediately they are not concerned about your knees or your ankles or anything like that. I think that should be an issue.

“Concussions are taking care of themselves. It’s a big deal to everyone because of all of the older players coming back and saying they’re all messed up now. That’s definitely an issue, but I think the cut blocks need to be a big issue as well.”

Defensive lineman Israel Idonije agreed “100 percent” with Urlacher that there’s a double standard in the NFL when it comes to player safety.

“We all know that,” Idonije said. “It’s an offensive game and ultimately a lot of the rules are put in place to advance the offense and defensively we’re second fiddle at times. But that’s just the nature of the game sometimes.

“Hopefully the bodies that govern the rules and protections do a better job of taking the injuries that the players on defense consistently sustain and remove some of those elements from the game as well.”

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Melton enjoying view from the top

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 15, 2012 – 1:55 pm

When the NFL released fan balloting results for the Pro Bowl Wednesday, Henry Melton was happy to see that he’s currently the leading vote-getter among NFC defensive tackles.

“I saw that on Twitter,” Melton said. “I got a little excited like a little kid. But you can’t let it go to your head and you can’t get too excited about it. It’s still early and there are a lot of games left to be played.”

After recording a career-high seven sacks last season in his first full year as a starter, Melton has continued to make impact plays while performing with more consistency in 2012. He has registered five sacks and two forced fumbles while compiling 23 tackles, the most by a Bears defensive lineman.

“It’s really just another year underneath my belt and getting with my coaches and watching how the veterans prepare and take the season,” Melton said. “It’s been eye-opening to see where I’ve come from, and it’s just a great feeling at the moment.”

As a running back at Texas, Melton rushed for 432 yards and 10 touchdowns as a freshman, helping the Longhorns win the national championship. He was later moved to the defensive line as a junior.

“You’ve got to have quick feet playing running back, just like it showed last week where they’re cutting and diving at your legs and you’ve got to stay on your feet to make a play,” Melton said. “That’s where it’s really helped me.”

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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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McManis exceeding Toub’s expectations

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 9, 2012 – 4:02 pm

Until Devin Hester returns a punt or a kickoff for a touchdown, Sherrick McManis’ blocked punt in last Sunday’s 51-20 rout of the Titans will stand as the Bears’ top special teams play of the season.

McManis bolted in off right end and blocked the punt that fellow Northwestern product Corey Wootten returned five yards for a touchdown. McManis also recorded two tackles while covering kickoffs and was named NFC special teams player of the week.

“I really like Sherrick,” said special teams coordinator Dave Toub. “It’s good to see him make a play for us. He’s got the quickness. He’s got great get-off. He used really good technique on that. It’s really hard to get a block in the NFL. There are a lot of things that have to go right, and they did on that play.”

When it was clear that fullback Tyler Clutts would not earn a spot on the Bears’ 53-man roster, they traded him to the Texans in exchange for McManis, a third-year pro.

“He’s exceeded our expectations,” Toub said. “We saw him on tape and we saw that he was a good gunner and he filled a need there for us. That’s really what we expected. But once we got him we started realizing what kind of get-off he has and we felt we could use him as a rusher.”

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Marinelli aims to keep defense hungry

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 9, 2012 – 3:32 pm

Rod Marinelli is pleased with how the Bears defense has performed this season. But it’s easy for the veteran defensive coordinator to make sure that players don’t get too full of themselves.

“That’s our job,” Marinelli said. “We owe that to these men. I know what they want to be. I know how special they want to be and how good they can be. And it’s a coach’s job to stay on every detail. Just tell them the truth and bring it to their attention as men, ‘that’s not good enough,’ and they will get it corrected.”

Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said this week that Marinelli “challenges us every single day. Every day he elevates us and challenges us to make more plays.”

“I think that’s the key, hitting the right button,” Marinelli said. “And that’s in everything you do because I think motivation at a point stops after a little bit, but a challenge doesn’t. These men always rise to challenges, and when you’re a competitor, that usually serves them well.”

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Bears want fans to smile, say cheese

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 9, 2012 – 2:13 pm

As part of Sunday night’s “Salute to Service” game against the Texans, the Bears will honor active military and veterans by allowing fans to participate in a unique photo prior to kickoff.

At approximately 7:20 p.m., the Bears FANCAM-an ultra-high-def five billion pixel 360-degree image-will be taken of the entire stadium. Fans will be able to “step inside” the image and look around by visiting ChicagoBears.com/fancam after Nov. 13.

The resolution will be so high that fans will be able to zoom in to find themselves or friends, “tag” themselves in the photo, and share this historic Soldier Field photo via email, Facebook and Twitter. Fans can even cruise around the stadium to see who else was in the stands.

Fans will also have the opportunity to purchase a panoramic photo from the National Anthem in which 10 percent of every purchase will benefit the USO of Illinois.

Fans should be ready to stand up, cheer, and waive their American Flags to take part in the commemorative fan photo. All those attending the game are encouraged to be in the stadium early to recognize veterans and military members and be a part of Bears fan history.

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Davis hosting benefit bowling event

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 9, 2012 – 1:06 pm

Former Bears receiver Rashied Davis is hosting a Bowling for Brighter Tomorrows fundraiser Monday night at Lucky Strike Lanes (322 E. Illinois Street) in Chicago.

The event will benefit the Saturday Place program, which is part of Rashied Davis Charities, an organization that Davis and his wife Dianna founded in 2009 with the mission to teach children how to overcome obstacles to success through inspiration, preparation and discipline.

The charitable organization focuses on third and fourth grade students at the peak of their academic growth and development and works to help children achieve success through early literacy intervention and character development.

The event will take place from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Click here for tickets or more information.

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Defense thrives with unselfish mentality

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 8, 2012 – 4:30 pm

Spend any quality time with Bears defensive players or coaches and the same statement invariably always comes up: “The star of the defense is the defense.”

The mantra doesn’t mean that the unit is devoid of stars; Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher have been voted to a combined 22 Pro Bowls. It’s more of a way to describe an unselfish group of players who have been teammates in some cases for a decade and don’t care who receives the credit as long as the defense excels as a unit.

“We know if we’re going to be good we all have to do our jobs,” said Urlacher, a 13-year veteran. “This defense doesn’t work unless everyone does their one-eleventh. We know that. We understand that. And if you do your job you’re going to make plays most of the time.

“We’ve seen that this season with all different guys making plays. Everybody has to do their job or we’re not going to be successful. I don’t know how it is anywhere else, but I know how it is here and we like it this way. And it may have something to do with us being together for so long and being close that we don’t really care who makes the plays.”

Making history this season has been a group effort for the Bears defense. Briggs, Urlacher, Tim Jennings, Charles Tillman and Major Wright all have returned interceptions for touchdowns; while 11 different players have recorded a pick, forced fumble or fumble recovery.

“We have a lot of stars, but they’re not really into individual things,” said coach Lovie Smith. “You know you have something special when guys aren’t really worried about what they’re getting and they’re excited about what their teammate is doing.

“Charles Tillman hasn’t talked about what he’s doing an awful lot because of everyone else. When the guys found out that Brian Urlacher was NFC defensive player of the week, nobody was more excited for Brian than the defense. That’s just kind of how it is around here.”

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