Bears

Patriots' Kraft: NFL labor deal 'is possible'

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Patriots' Kraft: NFL labor deal 'is possible'

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
2:26 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

It isnt necessarily hard news but a report by colleague Tom Curran with CSNNE.com quotes New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft as saying that an agreement between the league and its players is possible.

What makes that a bit more noteworthy that other statements to (or through) the media is that Kraft has not been viewed as a clarion voice of conciliation. So possible coming from Kraft in fact does get deliciously close to news at this point...

The next few days NFLNFLPA negotiations will have their own drama and, hopefully, results. But the days and hours leading up to the deadline extension late last week had some thoroughly intriguing intrigue of their own, including the fact that the whole shaky structure of things was within minutes of imploding.

Good friend Jim Trotter, one of the countrys top NFL writers for Sports Illustrated, put together a riveting tick-tock of events that went down for SI, and Peter King worked out with Jim and the editors to have the piece run as part of Peters always-must-read Monday Morning Quarterback. Jim is as good as it gets and what makes the piece, folded into MMQB, particularly good is that he was able to keep it from being a polemic for one side or the other of lapse into anything other that solid reporting. Check it out.

And Peter makes a quick reference to Plaxico Burress, the former New York Giants wide receiver who is being released from prison in June, earlier than anticipated because of good behavior. I do know the Bears are doing their due diligence on Burress, whose TD catch won a Super Bowl, and who, as Peter throws in, may be approaching 34 but hes a year and a half younger than Hines Ward.

Peter would give Burress a training-camp shot any day of the week and I have been advocating that as well. Hes not the same guy who went into jail and were a nation of second chances. This guy deserves one.

Footsteps?

Talk is always cheap but sometimes its worth noting. Like when Detroit Lions defensive tackle ...sees no reason why the Lions cant go 16-0.

Huh?

The first rookie to make first-team All-Pro since 1951, Suh told the NFL Network that there is no question that the sky is the limit. As ProFootballTalk.coms Michael David Smith says, you have to admire his confidence, if not necessarily his sense of perspective.

But heres a thought for Bears fans: Suhs team won its last four games. That left them at 6-10 and with the distinction of improving from 2009 to 2010 by the same number of wins as your division-champion Bears. Detroit 2009 was 2-14. The Bears were 7-9 in 2009, then 11-5 last season. The Lions defeated the Green Bay Packers the second time they faced them; the Bears didnt beat Green Bay the second or third times they met the eventual Super Bowl winners.

Split with the Packers, split with the Vikings, lost twice by 5 and 4 points to the Bears. Took the Jets to overtime. Beat the 10-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers in OT in Tampa.

Its not 16-0. But its something to think about.

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.

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

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USA TODAY

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

The news on Tuesday wasn’t really any sort of surprise: Brian Urlacher being selected as a semifinalist for the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Some of the immediate thoughts were, however, for one writer who covered Brian from the day he was drafted on through the unpleasant end of his 13-year career as a Bear.

Good thoughts, though. Definitely good.

The first was a flashback, to a Tuesday in late August 2000 when the ninth-overall pick of the draft, who’d been anointed the starting strong-side linebacker by coach Dick Jauron on draft day, was benched.

It happened up at Halas Hall when Urlacher all of a sudden wasn’t running with the 1’s. Rosie Colvin was in Urlacher’s spot with the starters and would be for a few games into the 2000 season. I caught up with Brian before he walked, in a daze, into Halas Hall after practice and asked about what I’d just seen.

"I'm unhappy with the way I'm playing and I'm sure they are, too," Urlacher said. "I don't think I've been playing very well so that's probably the cause for it right there. I just don't have any technique. I need to work on my technique, hands and feet mostly. I've got to get those down, figure out what I'm doing. I know the defense pretty good now, just don't know how to use my hands and feet."

Urlacher, an All-American safety at New Mexico but MVP of the Senior Bowl in his first game at middle linebacker, had been starting at strong side, over the tight end, because coaches considered it a simpler position for Urlacher to master. But he was not always correctly aligned before the snap, did not use his hands against blockers effectively and occasionally led with his head on tackles. His benching cost him the chance to be the first Bears rookie linebacker since Dick Butkus to start an Opening Day.

It also was the first time in his football life that Urlacher could remember being demoted.

"It's not a good feeling," he said. "I definitely don't like getting demoted but I know why I am. I just have to get better."

Coaches understood what they were really attempting, subsequently acknowledged privately that the SLB experiment was a mistake. While the strong-side slot may have been simpler than the other two principally because of coverage duties, "we're trying to force-feed the kid an elephant," then-defensive coordinator Greg Blache said.

"So you see him gag and what do you do? You give him the Heimlich maneuver, you take some of it out of his mouth, try to chop it up into smaller pieces. He's going to devour it and be a great football player. But he wouldn't be if we choked him to death."

Urlacher didn’t choke and eventually became the starter, not outside, but at middle linebacker when Barry Minter was injured week two at Tampa Bay.

We sometimes don’t fully know the import or significance at the time we’re witnessing something. Urlacher stepping in at middle linebacker was not one of those times – you knew, watching him pick up four tackles in basically just the fourth quarter of a 41-0 blowout by the Bucs.

That was the beginning. Over the years came moments like Urlacher scooping up a Michael Vick fumble in the 2001 Atlanta game and going 90 yards with Vick giving chase but not catching him. Lots of those kinds of moments.

And then cutting to the ending, in 2013, when he and the organization came to an acrimonious parting after GM Phil Emery managed to alienate the face of the franchise both with the one-year contract offer and the way it was handled. Butkus had a nasty separation at the end of his Bears years, too, and Bill George finished his career as a Los Angeles Ram after creating the middle linebacker position as a Bear. Maybe that’s just how Bears and some of their linebackers wind up their relationships.

In any case, while there is no cheering in the pressbox, the hope here is that Brian goes into the Hall in a class with Ray Lewis in their first years of eligibility. Somehow that just seems like it all should close out for that confused kid from New Mexico who lost his first job out of college, but responded to that by becoming one of the all-time greats in his sport.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who deserves the most blame for Bears losses?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who deserves the most blame for Bears losses?

Mark Potash (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Kevin Fishbain (The Athletic) join Kap on the panel. It’s another losing season for the Bears. So who deserves the most blame: Ryan Pace, John Fox or the players? Plus Mark Schanowski drops by to talk about the Bulls future and if the Celtics will win the East.