Bears

Bears-Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium not certain

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Bears-Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium not certain

Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010
1:56 PM Updated 4:06 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Minnesota Vikings are determined to have their game against the Bears next Monday in Minneapolis. It is still not a stone-cold lock.

Defensive end Israel Idonije said Wednesday that players have not been told where the game will be played. The choices are the University of Minnesotas TCF Bank Stadium or Ford Field in Detroit, because the Metrodome cannot be repaired in time after its disastrous tear last weekend due to snow.

The Vikings and the NFL will cover the expenses of re-opening TCF Bank Stadium, for which costs could reach as high as 700,000. But the call went out Wednesday that the university needed more volunteers to clear the snow from TCF Banks grounds, meaning this is not a certainty until there is an official announcement that its game-on, and that hasnt been made.

Theres also a forecast of 3-6 inches of snow. The target area was south and west of the metropolitan area but if there is certainty with weather, it is just thatwell, its...umm...well, something. Ill get back to you on that.

Generally the location of a game is only marginally part of game planning vs. the specifics of an opponent. But for special teams in particular, whether the game is at an outdoor stadium or indoors will materially affect planning.

On the kick return game we have to decide and figure out where were going to make our double teams if its outside, said special teams coordinator Dave Toub. The kicks are shorter. Everything moves up. We have a different plan for outdoors than we would for indoors. Wherever they want to kick it, itll be there if its indoors. If its not, we have to plan for the other. For us on special teams it is a big difference so the sooner we find out, the better.

Fluid situation

As weve been saying at CSNChicago.com for the last day-plus, the Bears and Minnesota Vikings are going to play Monday night but it is also increasingly less likely that theyll be playing in Minneapolis and the Vikings themselves are describing things as this fluid situation.

Repairing the Metrodome is out and now the Vikings confirm that NFL officials are touring the University of Minnesotas TCF Bank Stadium Wednesday to assess its workability as the alternative site. Notably as well, the team is noting in the second sentence of its statement that the decision ultimately is the NFLs, so the Vikings arent ducking the decision but making sure it doesnt reflect badly back on the organization when the second straight home game is shipped off to Detroit.

Lets see how you read the Vikings statement:

At this time, NFL officials are touring TCF Bank Stadium to ensure its safety for our fans and its ability to meet the primary technical requirements for an NFL game. Ultimately the decision to re-locate a game is the league's in consultation with the two teams. The NFL supports the plan to play Monday night's game at TCF Bank Stadium but is currently ensuring viability of this plan.

At the same time, the Vikings and the University of Minnesota are diligently working through all of the issues associated with moving a game such as tickets, parking, and operations. The organization is working to accommodate our fans questions, and we will continue to inform them on this fluid situation as soon as more information is available.

The brouhaha over the game venue didnt command all of the attention Wednesday.

Bears long snapper Pat Mannelly was picked, by USA Football and the NFL players association, as one of 26 players on the 2010 All-Fundamentals Team. And it couldnt happen to a classier, more deserving individual. More on that later.

The award is given to 11 offensive, 11 defensive and 4 special-teams players based on consistency with the fundamentals of their positions and for making a positive impact on their communities. Pat is not only a 13-year veteran who is among the true elite at his position, but also he is a spokesman for the American Lung Associations Athletes and Asthma Program as well as operator of longsnapper.com, a website he started as a means of instructing young players at the position.

Its a great honor for Pat, very well deserved, said special-teams coordinator Dave Toub. His technique is second to none. The fact that he has a website called longsnapper.com where thousands of young kids go to pretty much every year to find out how to long snap tells you a lot about Pat and how important he feels that technique and proper fundamentals are.

The reason behind the website was boredom, Mannelly said, laughing. No, actually, it was. It was during an offseason when I was bored, and I was looking on the Internet and I noticed there was nothing out there about long snapping. In high school, fortunately I had a brother who was 5 years older who went to Notre Dame, and he wanted to learn how to long snap and he was handed a pamphlet of how to long snap, so he got his information through a pamphlet.

Looking on the Internet, there was nothing out there on how to long snap, so I just wanted to put the information out there: how to hold the ball, how to snap it, all that stuff, so hopefully a kid like me who wanted to learn how to do it could just type up something and get the information.

But the lessons from Pat reach far, far beyond the fundamentals of long snapping.

Ive had the good fortune of covering the Bears through Pats entire career and have repeated and re-told something he once told me. Pat was one of the most sought-after high school offensive linemen in the nation coming out of high school in Georgia. USC, Notre Dame, Georgia, pick a power, Pat heard from them.

He chose Duke, about as far from a football power as there was at the time.

Pats reasoning was simple. He looked very critically at chances of reaching the NFL, even for a top lineman like himself, and he realized that if youre good enough to play in the NFL, they will find you. It really didnt matter where you played. Given that the Bears have starters from West Texas A&M, two from Abilene Christian, two from Louisiana-Lafayette all of them drafted. Pat went to Duke. They found him; he was drafted, in 1998, same year as Olin Kreutz.

What that translated into for Pat was a decision to use his athletic skill as a lottery ticket to cash in for the best education he felt suited him. That was in history and also with the economics foundation he wanted.

If youre good enough, the NFL indeed will find you. If youre smart enough, youll make the kind of decision Pat did.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

How Tarik Cohen is thriving as the Bears continue to put more on his plate

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USA Today

How Tarik Cohen is thriving as the Bears continue to put more on his plate

Mitchell Trubisky shook his head and grinned when he fielded yet another question this week about the touchdown pass Tarik Cohen threw against the Baltimore Ravens.

“Dang, you guys can’t get enough of this,” Trubisky said. “I talked about it after the game. Dowell (Loggains) was saying it was the best pass of the game. I’m like, ‘All right, geez, let him play quarterback.

“… He threw a dime ball. I love how he was fading away on it and celebrating on the 50-yard line. Zach (Miller) made a great catch. So A-plus; really impressive spiral, especially with the gloves on. Can’t count any of that out. Tarik’s a special player and it was an awesome throw.”

The point here is less about Cohen’s throw and more about the Bears finding yet another way for the rookie running back to make an impact. So far this year, Cohen has rushed 50 times, caught 26 passes, returned 14 punts and now thrown that historic touchdown. He’s been asked to block in pass protection more frequently, allowing him to be on the field more. And he’s worked with wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni and Kendall Wright (who Cohen referred to as another receiver coach for him) to expand his route tree, leading him to be the most-targeted player (33 targets) on the Bears through six weeks. 

That may seem like a lot to put on the plate of a fourth-round draft pick from an FCS school, but it hasn’t been too much for Cohen. 

“We need Tarik to be that guy for us — the best playmaker we have,” Loggains said. “There’s no secret there. And he’s a guy who we’ll continue to use, and people are aware of him. So how creative can we get with him? How many different things can we do with him? 

“Like, we’re stretching him. Mentally, he’s stretched to the max playing all these positions — motioning out to wide receiver, playing running back and doing more in the backfield with more carries. So we have to keep stretching him and keep using him in the offense.”

Opposing defenses have keyed on Cohen since his explosive debut Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons, scheming to muffle his playmaking ability. But he still managed to nearly have a walk-off 73-yard run against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3, and then in Week 6, with defenses figuring they could crash down on him on sweep plays to the edge, he (literally) threw another wrinkle into how to gameplan against him. The next time the Bears run a toss sweep to Cohen, opposing safeties will have to think twice about bolting toward the line of scrimmage to stop him. 

Every time Cohen seems to hit a rookie wall, he and the Bears find a way to knock it down. The discussion a week ago about Cohen was that he was dancing too much and not cutting upfield quick enough; this week, it’s all about his perfect quarterback rating. 

“Our coaches do a good job of continuing to put him in places so he can be successful,” fellow running back Benny Cunningham said. “But ultimately I feel like he has such a genuine love of the game, I don’t see that happening (hitting the wall). Since the day he’s been here, from Day 1 to today, I’ve seen no drop-off in his desire to be successful and to help this offense.”

The Bears have known this about Cohen's mentality since they scouted and drafted him back in the spring, and his potential only blossomed after getting him into Halas Hall in May — “Early on, we knew Tarik was going to be pretty special,” coach John Fox said. But Cohen wouldn’t be able to reach that potential without the ability to handle the responsibilities of all the different tasks the Bears have asked of him so far. 

Cohen’s ability to do so many different things makes him an important player for this team, and his ability to do them with an exciting, playmaking flair has made him a fan favorite since training camp. So what’s next for the 5-foot-6 rookie?

“I think we’ve got something — I’ll punt the ball this week,” Cohen joked. “Naw, I’m playin’. I can’t put the ball for nothing, I don’t think. It’ll probably go like 20 yards.”

The Bears defense is trending up, and could get Nick Kwiatkoski back as soon as this weekend

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USA Today

The Bears defense is trending up, and could get Nick Kwiatkoski back as soon as this weekend

Nick Kwiatkoski was a full participant in Bears practice on Friday, marking the first time the second-year linebacker has done that since he suffered a pec injury Sept. 17 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, Kwiatkoski sounded confident he could make his return five weeks after suffering that painful injury. 

“It’s not really my decision,” Kwiatkoski said. “I’m preparing like I am, so we’ll see. … “In my head I am (playing). But we’ll see.”

The Bears’ defense, despite placing three key players — linebackers Willie Young and Jerrell Freeman and safety Quintin Demps — on injured reserve, has been solid at worst so far this year. Pro Football Focus has Vic Fangio’s group as the third-best defense in the NFL through Week 6, behind only the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars. 

While Christian Jones played some quality snaps next to Danny Trevathan (and John Timu — he struggled after Timu’s injury against Minnesota), Kwiatkoski represents an upgrade at inside linebacker. The Bears liked what Kwiatkoski did last year in place of an injured Trevathan, and were confident they wouldn’t miss a beat with him filling in after Freeman’s Week 1 injury. 

“He’s a smart guy who has been willing to work,” coach John Fox said. “And I’ve seen that improvement from last year to this year. And anytime you get whacked or injured or taken out for some reason, you’ve got to kind of regain that again. It’s like a do-over. So he has had a good week.”

Kwiatkoski stayed sharp by going through meetings and film study as if he were playing while that pec injury — which he said felt like a “bad pulled muscle” — kept him sidelined for practices and games. If Kwiatkoski indeed is active and/or starting Sunday against Carolina, the hope is he can step in and pick up where he left off in Week 2. 

“I have all the confidence that he'll do fine,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said prior to Kwiatkoski’s injury. And that confidence, in all likelihood, still exists.