Bears

Gould: No formal protest over field conditions

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Gould: No formal protest over field conditions

Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010
1:10 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Think the players, including the Minnesota Vikings themselves, want this game in Minneapolis at all costs? Punter Chris Kluwe on his Twitter @ChrisWarcraft posted Early reports are a 2 layer of ice underneath the snow on the field at TCF. With no heating coils, expect a hockey game.

Kicker Robbie Gould, the Bears player rep in the absence of injured linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, will change his practice routine this week.

I think Ill go down to the UC United Center and see if I can borrow Blackhawks star Patrick Kanes skates, Gould joked, sort of. But who knows; I may have to bring them up to Minnesota Monday night.

They wont get a vote in whether Mondays game is played in TCF Bank Field or in some other city. But if the players were asked, the decision would border on unanimous:

No good can come from trying to stage this game on the University of Minnesotas field, whether the army of volunteers or anything else gets the snow removed and all the other preparations completed.

Forget the romantic frozen tundra stuff

Gould said that, contrary to some reports out of Minneapolis, there has been no formal protest over playing in the outdoor stadium nor is one expected. The Players Association, however, has been in contact with the NFL and the message is clear:

Its take a careful look, Gould said. Players dont want to play on a facility thats frozen. Obviously those conditions are going to create more risk of injury and obviously players dont want to be put in that sort of situation, given that theres been so many fines for head-to-head tackles.

Plus, think about it: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers got a concussion in Detroit, in a dome, and thats the softest of dome facilities. You go outdoors to a frozen field and the risk of injury is going to be a lot greater.

Jay Cutler was pointed in comments declaring Soldier Field a disaster last week. He was even more critical of what may lie in store in Minneapolis.

Thats kind of the buzz in the locker room and the concern with the guys, Cutler said. We dont really care where we play but that TCF Bank field isnt heated. And they can heat it up all they want but then were going to be out there for three hours in zero-degree weather so its definitely going to be a hard surface...

We dont get a choice in this. If they say play in a parking lot, were going to show up and play in a parking lot... Thats why the guys are really concerned about that, more so than where we play. We dont want to go out there and play on a concrete-type surface.

The number of concussions being reported this season is up more than 20 percent and playing on what Kluwe is describing as a virtual ice rink means heads hitting very hard ground. Defensive end Jared Allen isnt sure what thatll mean to his own battered head.

Aww, Im just a dumb lineman, I just show up there and hit my head anyways, Allen said.

Wherever they tell us to play. Heck, we could play here at Winter Park Vikings headquarters if you could get the fans in here.

St. Louis? Atlanta? Detroit again?

A decision on TCF Bank Field and the Metrodome was initially expected Tuesday. Then it was Wednesday. Then Thursday.

Gould said that a decision would be reached in a timely manner.

Whats a timely manner to the NFL? Who knows, Gould said. I think the timely manner is just making sure that everyone is safe and making sure the playing surface for every athlete is going to be safe.

Because theres no reason to put guys at risk when theres plenty of facilities, 32 teams, to play, especially when half of those teams are going to be away anyway.

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.

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

The first major move of Ryan Pace’s 2018 offseason hit on Tuesday, as NFL Network reported the Bears will not exercise Josh Sitton’s $8 million option for 2018. 

The move accomplishes two things for the Bears: 1) It frees up about $8 million in cap space and 2) Removes a veteran from the offensive line and creates a hole to fill, presumably by a younger free agent or draft pick. 

The 31-year-old Sitton signed a three-year deal with the Bears after Green Bay cut him just before the 2016 season, and was a Pro Bowler his first year in Chicago. Sitton played 26 of 32 games in two years with the Bears, but him being on the wrong side of 30 was likely the biggest factor here. If the Bears saw his skills eroding, releasing him now and netting the cap savings while going younger at the position does make sense. 

“Going younger” doesn’t guarantee the Bears will draft Notre Dame brawler Quenton Nelson, though that did become a greater possibility with Tuesday’s move. Nelson might be one of the two or three best offensive players in this year’s draft, and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand knows him well from the four years they spent together at Notre Dame. 

There’s a natural fit there, of course, but a few reasons to slow the Nelson-to-Chicago hype train: Would he even make it to No. 8? Or if he’s there, is taking a guard that high worth it when the Bears have needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker and cornerback? Still, the thought of Nelson — who absolutely dominated at Notre Dame — pairing with Hiestand again is tantalizing, and Nelson very well could step into any team’s starting lineup and be an immediate Pro Bowler as a rookie. 

If the Bears go younger in free agency, Matt Nagy knows 26-year-old guard Zach Fulton (No. 25 in Bleacher Report’s guard rankings) well from their time in Kansas City. Fulton — a Homewood-Flossmoor alum — has the flexibility to play both guard positions and center, which could open the door for Cody Whitehair to be moved to left guard, the position he was initially drafted to play (though the Bears do value him highly as a center, and keeping him at one position would benefit him as opposed to moving him around the line again). There are some other guys out there — like Tennessee’s Josh Kline or New York’s Justin Pugh — that could wind up costing more than Fulton in free agency. 

Or the Bears could look draft an offensive lineman after the first round, perhaps like Ohio State’s Billy Price, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn or UTEP’s Will Hernandez. How the Bears evaluate guards at the NFL Combine next week will play an important role in how they go about replacing Sitton. 

The trickle-down effect of releasing Sitton will impact more than the offensive line, too. Freeing up his $8 million in cap space -- which wasn't a guarantee, unlike cutting Jerrell Freeman and, at some point, Mike Glennon -- could go toward paying Kyle Fuller, or another top cornerback, or a top wide receiver, or some combination of players at those positions (as well as outside linebacker). The Bears were already in a healthy place cap-wise; that just got healthier on Tuesday.