Bears

Frankie O: Line of demarcation

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Frankie O: Line of demarcation

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com
There are events that create these lines in our lives and nothing is the same. For anyone associated with Penn State University, a line was drawn on November 5, 2011, and there is no going back. For the alleged victims of Jerry Sanduskys evil, predatory reign these lines were unfortunately drawn a long time ago, covered in a sickening shroud. I can only hope that for their sake that a new, uplifting one can be drawn, but the cynic, and realist, in me has no idea if that can ever be the case.

I think about these victims every day. Thats the parent in me. I cant help but feel a little guilty whenever I give my little ones a hug and kiss. I realize how precious they are and how fortunate I am to have them in my life. For some reason Ive been doing it a lot more frequently lately. How some monster could see them as something else is very unsettling. Seeing children for the gift they are is at the core being a parent. I dont know if it is coincidental that Sandusky does not have any biological children of his own. I know for myself, when my oldest was born it changed the way I looked at everything. First and foremost was the unconditional love and need to provide for and protect the new center of my universe. And not being unaware of what was right or wrong, being responsible for someone elses little angel took on an entire new meaning. I cant think of a bigger responsibility then when I am in charge of the care of someone's child.

That a sick deviate can exist is something that a behavioral psychologist can try to explain, but that doesnt mean the normal-thinking of us can understand. The issues being dealt with here are beyond any sort of acceptable behavior. But what makes me especially nauseous in this case is that there where highly educated people, who were put in a position because they should know better, and they did nothing to stop the atrocities from continuing. When procedure means that a university official can determine when a crime has occurred without consulting police, this should be a big red flag that morality has been shoved aside for profitability.

The more we learn the sicker it gets. I dont know when the thought of a cover-up began, but you cant convince me that isnt what occurred. In that case, what kind of monster agrees the safety and innocence of young kids is worth saving the program? I cant begin to fathom the depths of the feelings of the victims, but how could one be so unfeeling as to turn their backs on them?

The fallout, of course, is that it casts a stain on anyone associated with the university in any way. I know there has been a lot of talk about the current team and I get that, but this is much bigger. Being a symbol for child abuse, which the university now is, means that anyone who wears the Penn State colors, walks on the university campus or has the name prominently featured in their resume, is going to have to answer questions and explain how they feel about what has occurred.

Hopefully this will create enough emotion that it motivates us to make sure that the truth is learned and no matter who it is, anyone in any way responsible will have to pay a price.

Not that that will erase any of what has happened. Listening to the Bob Costas interview with Sandusky on Monday was chilling. I wont try to analyze his pauses and inflections for what secret meaning they possess, I think its obvious enough, but by just going on the facts of what he was talking about, at what point is it appropriate behavior for a man in his 50s to be showering at any time, let alone late at night in an empty building, with a young boy? Horeseplay? Again, I dont understand why this guy is not in jail! Not only that, he has no restrictions on his movements or is being monitored. In fact he was advised by his attorney, to take a vacation with his wife so he will be ready for the stress of the upcoming trial. Does that make anyone else angry?

This brings me to the least understood situation of what we are dealing with, at least with some that I talk to. These victims must confront their abuser in a court of law if justice is to be done. In a way it is to re-live their nightmare over again for all to see. I know that this is a fundamental procedure in our judicial system, and rightfully so, but it rips at my heart to think of how painful that must be. One can only hope that they have the strength and support to be able to do what must be done. And now that they are older, they can finally stand up to the person who willfully took advantage of them, in a way they were unable to as a child.

That is also how people are going to understand the magnitude of what has taken place. This story still has many, many unanswered questions. What has yet to come out is the explanations of what those tied to the university will use as their excuse. Im sure it will center on one person though, and whether you believe them or him. Mike McQueary being able to talk has to make a lot of people nervous. He also will have a say in the way that Joe Paterno will be viewed from here on out, although there still are some who refuse to believe that Joe could have done any wrong. At this point its a little late for that kind of thinking, isnt it? Its going to be to what degree of wrong, when all is said and done.

But whatever happens, its going to be when we hear from the kids themselves that this whole awful episode will hit home. No amount of spin-doctoring is going to be able to change what happened to them and the culture that allowed it to happen more than once.

The contradiction that is Paterno and what was built at Penn State is that we should strive to be something better, that education and brotherhood are great virtues. But the measure of what we achieve isnt in the magnitude of what we have built, it is in the knowledge that we make this a better place to live one at a time, bringing everyone with us, especially those who cant always fend for themselves. Somehow, Paterno and those around him forgot this very basic idea. They became enamored with themselves and all that they possessed. Soon we will learn at what price.

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive Line

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive Line

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Medium

Decisions to be made on: Mitch Unrein (free agent), John Jenkins (free agent)

Possible free agent targets: Jared Crick, Frostee Rucker, Dominique Easley

This unit was consistently the Bears’ best in 2017, with Akiem Hicks playing at a Pro Bowl level (don’t let his exclusion from the game fool you on that) and Eddie Goldman putting together a rock-solid, healthy year. 

Hicks signed a four-year contract extension just before the season began and rewarded the Bears with a dominant year, racking up 8 ½ sacks and 15 tackles for a loss. Goldman played in and started 15 games and was a key reason why the Bears limited opposing rushers to four yards per carry, tied for the 10th-best average in the league. 

But while the Bears’ defensive line was certainly good, it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. These words from Vic Fangio ring true for Hicks and Goldman:

“I think they all have a lot more to give to us than we’ve seen,” Fangio said. “And it’s our job to get them to improve and become even better players. That will be more important to us than anybody we can acquire between now and whenever our first game is. So, and I know it’s always sexy to talk between now and the first game, you know, who are you going to draft, who’s in free agency, etc., but we’ve got to get our so-called good players playing even better. And that will be critical.”

Hicks will enter Year 3 in Fangio’s scheme, while 2018 will be Goldman’s fourth. It’ll also be a critical year for Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris, who’ve flashed potential at times but haven’t been able to turn that into consistent success on the field. 

And that’s where we begin to look ahead to free agency and the draft. Is the Bears’ evaluation of Bullard -- their 2016 third-round pick -- positive enough to hand him a bigger role in 2018? That’s question No. 1 to answer, with No. 2 then being if the team should try to re-sign Mitch Unrein. 

It may be a bit risky to move forward with Bullard, given how popular Unrein was among the Bears’ defensive coaching staff. 

“He’s one of the glue guys on the defense and the team,” Fangio said last November. “Every team needs a few of those guys who are going to do everything right, full speed, hard and tough all the time, and that’s Mitch.”

Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers offered this up about Unrein back in October: “He allows those guys to play fast,” with “those guys” being Hicks and Goldman. 

Statistically, the 30-year-old Unrein doesn’t  jump off the page, but he did record a career high 2 ½ sacks in 2017. Perhaps there would be some benefits to continuity in the Bears’ base 3-4 defensive line.

Worth noting too is this position isn’t a huge need, given Unrein usually played between 40 and 55 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps on a per-game basis last year. Keeping Unrein for a relatively low cap hit would make some sense, as opposed to testing free agency to replace him.

Jared Crick is coming off back surgery and an ineffective 2016; Dominique Easley is coming off his third torn ACL this decade; Frostee Rucker is in his mid-30’s. The Bears could look to pick a 3-4 defensive end in April, but that would be a pretty quick re-draft of the position and would be an indication they don’t think much of Bullard. This seems like a position where keeping the status quo is likely, save maybe for replacing John Jenkins with a different backup behind Goldman. 
 

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

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AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”