BOURBONNAIS, Ill. Everything in moderation, especially where All-Pro players are concerned.
Even as they again finished practice with full-go live-tackling session of practice with their reserve players, the Bears continued on Thursday to exercise caution with franchise players. Linebacker Brian Urlacher was in uniform but did not practice as he was given a second straight day off because of soreness in his left knee, which was injured in game 16 last season at Minnesota.
Defensive end Julius Peppers played in spots, in the two-on-two pass-rush drills and in some of the full team sessions. When he did work, it was high-impact: He and tackle Stephen Paea combined for two consecutive dominant wins against left tackle JMarcus Webb and left guard Chris Spencer in the rush drill, with Peppers winding up at the quarterback for would-be sacks.
All of our tackles that come on the field to go against Peppers and guys like that each day, you have to be ready to play, said coach Lovie Smith. It has to get you better."
Receiverreturner Devin Hester was excused from practice with soreness in his ankle, as was Eric Weems, a Pro Bowl return man but who has had a standpoint minicamp and training camp this offseason.
On this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Seth Gruen and Ben Finfer join Chuck Garfien on the panel.
The Bulls win again. Do they dare think playoffs? Vincent Goodwill joins the guys to discuss.
Plus, they debate where the “Minneapolis Miracle” ranks amongst the greatest plays in NFL playoff history and if Tom Ricketts is right to say that Sammy Sosa needs to put everything on the table to rejoin the Cubs family.
Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:
One of the best things about Cubs Convention is the access fans and media have to the team and the state of mind the players possess in mid-January.
At this point, they’ve had time away from the field to rest and relax with their family and friends and as Anthony Rizzo says “no one is oh for four yet.” While workouts are in full swing, few have started hitting or pitching at this point in their off-season schedule, so “baseball talk” is not always priority. Instead, this is when we get to hear fun stories and entertaining tidbits about these players.
It’s no secret this team genuinely enjoys being around one and other and that the camaraderie is on full display for fans as they interact and poke fun at one and other during the question and answer panels. So, for those that may have missed the weekend’s festivities here are a few humorous things we learned about the Cubs:
- When asked about a celebrity crushes, Anthony Rizzo coaxed Javier Baez into a J-Lo response while Kyle Schwarber weighed out his options before coming up with Katy Perry. That was “until she shaved her hair off and now looks like Eleven from Stranger Things!”
- Schwarber’s name has consumed the recent headlines following his physical transformation this winter, but he isn’t the only Cub who dropped some weight this off-season. Those that got a picture or autograph from Ian Happ over the weekend should have noticed a slimmer physique as well. Happ told me “you have to look and feel your best for your first full season.” And when it comes to all the trade rumors involving his name, he said he’s been too busy golfing and working out this offseason to pay any attention.
- During a one-on-one interview with new Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood, he gave us his best scouting report on himself, “four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, I’ll throw my curveball a lot more. That’s always been my best pitch and I kind of got away from it a little bit, but I’m going to be throwing that a lot more. Cutter and a changeup, too. So, you know, try to trick them with something.” And when asked which Cubs player he’s most interested in meeting, his response was Kris Bryant. “Just watching him it seems like he does everything cool.”
- Addison Russell recalled his favorite memory or most funny moment of 2017 as the exchange with Nacho Man. Bringing Cubs and Cardinals fans together over nacho cheese and selfies. The All-Star shortstop also informed us that if he weren’t playing major league baseball, his fallback would be, a dart player. That’s right.
- After being left off the panel of last year’s Kids Only Press Conference, Anthony Rizzo asked to be the host this year. “It’s my favorite event of the weekend,” Rizzo said. The Cubs first baseman did a tremendous job, toeing the line between appropriate parent/child humor. And after a few minutes of trash talking with Kris Bryant, Rizzo conceded that the younger Bryzzo partner would likely beat him in a one-on-one pickup game. Something I’m sure we’ll see a few weeks from now in Mesa at Spring Training.
- And last, but certainly not least, Willson Contreras stole the weekend as he recalled the best defensive play of 2017 being Jon Lester’s pickoff of Tommy Pham. “I went out there and said hey motherfu**** throw the ball to first.” A moment that left his teammates on stage shaking their heads in disbelief. But our takeaway: the young, fiery catcher is not intimidated working with the veteran lefty, and he’s just the guy you want behind the plate for this experienced rotation.
After an easy going weekend full of laughs and selfies, the players now buckle in and turn their attention to spring training, with pitchers and catchers reporting to Mesa in less than a month.