Bears

Dempster reached out to Dodgers GM at deadline

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Dempster reached out to Dodgers GM at deadline

LOS ANGELES Ryan Dempster would have loved it here. Dodger Stadium gets loud and is filled with energy. Magic Johnson headlines a new ownership group that wants this to be Showtime.

Theres history everywhere, with pictures of Jackie Robinson and Vin Scully and all the old greats lining the walls. The weather and the dimensions are perfect for a 35-year-old pitcher.

Theres old friend Ted Lilly, who parlayed a 2010 deadline deal to Los Angeles into a three-year, 33 million contract. The Dodgers (59-50) are thinking about October, surging after completing a three-game sweep with Sundays 7-6 walk-off win over the Cubs.

Dempster didnt get what he wanted last week, and until HBO makes a definitive movie styled after Too Big to Fail, well never get inside the room, only settling for fragmented pieces of information.

But heres another twist: Sources said that Dempster was so hung up on the Dodgers that the Cubs told him to directly call Ned Colletti. Dempster spoke with the Los Angeles general manager just before the deadline eliminating that possibility and then accepted a trade to the Texas Rangers.

The Cubs denied a Chicago Tribune report that they let Dempster listen in on trade conversations without informing the Dodgers what would be a serious breach of ethics. But it clearly struck a nerve in the Cubs front office and revealed a Los Angeles perspective on the failed negotiations.

General manager Jed Hoyer who was the point man for dealing with the Dodgers reached out to Colletti on Sunday to explain the misunderstanding.

After watching a potential deal with the Atlanta Braves collapse once it leaked to the media, the Cubs brought Dempster into their new headquarters on Clark and Waveland for the final hour or so before the July 31 deadline.

Dempster who had 10-and-5 no-trade rights was hanging out in Hoyers office before the general manager had to kick him out and make a few phone calls. So Hoyer found Dempster another office with a television to watch the MLB Network.

The confusion came out of a group interview with Theo Epstein the day after. The team president was asked about Dempsters role in the negotiations and his relationship with the front office.

We were on great terms throughout the entire process, Epstein said. We joked about it every day. And in the end, once he came to our office and actually heard the conversations we were having with L.A., he realized: OK, maybe thats actually not going to happen.Let me consider a couple other places.

Epstein's answer to a follow-up question about Dempster actually being in the office listening in didnt make it clear whether he was in the building versus the actual room where Hoyer was on the phone.

It was an unusual situation, Epstein said then. But I think it was helpful to have him there. He could hear firsthand that it probably wasnt going to happen.

If someone really wants to go to a place, you can tell them over and over again its probably not going to happen. But unless theyre convinced of that, they may not want to move on to their second choice.

There were certain things he needed to hear.

So Dempster evidently went straight to the source, and got what he didn't want to hear.

As the Bears begin to form an identity, special teams need to catch up

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USA Today

As the Bears begin to form an identity, special teams need to catch up

If you squint, you can start to see the Bears forming an identity. The offense, at its best, will control the game with Jordan Howard and an offensive line that’s improving with cohesion over the last few weeks. The defense will stop the run, rarely blow assignments and — at least last week — force a few turnovers. 

Those can be the makings of a team that's at least competitive on a week-to-week basis. But they also leave out a critical segment of this group: Special teams. And that unit is obscuring whatever vision of an identity that may be coming into focus. 

Jeff Rodgers’ special teams unit ranks 29th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings, and is below average in all five categories the advanced statistics site tracks: field goals/extra points, kickoffs, kickoff returns, punts and punt returns. 

Had the Bears’ just merely "fine," for lack of a better term, on special teams Sunday, they would’ve controlled a win over the Baltimore Ravens from start to finish. But a 96-yard kickoff return (after the Bears went up 17-3) and a 77-yard punt return (which, after a two-point conversion, tied the game in the fourth quarter) were the Ravens’ only touchdowns of the game; they otherwise managed three field goals. 

Rodgers didn’t find much fault with the way the Bears covered Bobby Rainey’s kickoff return — he would’ve been down at the 23-yard line had the officiating crew ruled that Josh Bellamy got a hand on him as he was tumbling over. But the Bears players on the field (and, it should be said, a number of Ravens) stopped after Rainey hit the turf; he got up and dashed into the end zone for a momentum-shifting score. 

“A lot of our players stopped, all their players stopped,” Rodgers said. “There were players from both teams who came on to the field from the sideline. So there’s a lot of people on that particular play who thought the play was over.”

That return touchdown could be chalked up to an officiating-aided fluke, but Michael Campanaro’s punt return score was inexcusable given the situation of the game (up eight with just under two minutes left). The Bears checked into a max protect formation, and no players were able to wriggle free and get downfield toward Campanaro (Cre’von LeBlanc, who replaced an injured Sherrick McManis, was knocked to the turf). Rodgers said O’Donnell’s booming punt wasn’t the issue — it didn’t need to be directed out of bounds, he said — and instead pointed to a lack of execution by the other 10 players on the field. And not having McManis isn’t an excuse here. 

“We expect everybody to play at the standard at which that position plays,” Rodgers said. “I don’t put that touchdown on one guy getting hurt, but you’d always like to have your best players on the field.”

In isolation, the special teams mistakes the Bears have made this year can be explained — beyond these two returns, Marcus Cooper slowing up before the end zone was baffling, yet sort of fluky. But while the Bears’ arrow is pointing up on defense and, at the least, isn’t pointing down on offense, these special teams mistakes collective form a bad narrative. 

“We take those players, we practice it, and like all mistakes, you admit them and then you fix them,” coach John Fox said, “and then hope to God you don’t do it again.”

Fantasy Football Fix Podcast: Midseason trade targets and who you should sell high on

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USA TODAY

Fantasy Football Fix Podcast: Midseason trade targets and who you should sell high on

Rotoworld and NBC Sports fantasy analyst Josh Norris joins the Fantasy Football Fix Podcast to discuss if Derrick Henry's time in Tennessee has finally arrived. Plus, the CSN Fantasy crew analyzes which players you should sell high on and who you should target in midseason trades.