Bears

Hamilton may return earlier than expected from foot injury

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Hamilton may return earlier than expected from foot injury

AUBURN HILLS, MICH.Back in Detroit, where he won a championship and was an All-Star for the Pistons, Bulls starting shooting Rip Hamilton addressed the media for the first time since tearing his left plantar fascia last week. Hamilton, who injured his left foot in the teams home win Saturday over Philadelphiathough he hurt himself in the first half of the contest, he returned in the games waning moments to knock down clutch free throws to help seal the victoryrevealed that he could be out for a month with his ailment, but theres a possibility that he could return to the court sooner.

Its getting a little better every day. Im really working hard on it. Im trying to get flexibility, trying to get the swelling and blood thats in there down, things like that, so every day it gets better. The good thing about it is there hasnt been a setback or anything like that, he said prior to the Bulls morning shootaround Friday at the opulent campus of the Detroit Country Day School, alma mater of retired NBA player Chris Webber and current Miami Heat forward Shane Battier. They the Bulls medical staff said four weeks, but they said that I can probably come back before that. Everybodys bodys different. Its just one of those things where you just want to try to get better every day.

I wasnt surprised. I thought the tape exploded on my foot. Talking to the doctor Brian Cole, the Bulls team physician, he said that it was probably a good thing that it happened, just so the whole plantar fascia, when you have it, it tends to stick with players all year, so when it popped, it was actually a good thing. Once it heals, itll be okay, continued Hamilton, who held his summer basketball camps at the school when he played for the Pistons. Just trying to get the swelling out of it. Typical ice, electronic stimulation, ultrasound. We do some stuff with the ball, try to roll it, massage it. A lot of massaging it, just to try to get the bottom of my foot stronger.

Hamilton noted that while he isnt doing any conditioning during his absence, I dont get out of shape, repeating it for emphasis when pressed for details.

The 34-year-old veteran, who is averaging 13.9 points per game this season, likes how his replacements, Marco Belinelli, who scored a season-high 23 points in the Bulls Tuesday win over Cleveland as a fill-in starter, and second-year swingman Jimmy Butler have been progressing in his absence.

Theyve been great. I thought the first game, they were just kind of feeling it out, the Indiana game. I thought the last game, they came out a lot more aggressive. Marco played great, getting to the basket, getting guys involved, making his shots. Doing what he does, hes a shooter. I tell him, You shoot too well to be pump-faking. I thought he did well, Hamilton said. Jimmys been getting better each and every game all season, so I like the way that hes been playing.

Hamilton is disappointed that hell be sidelined for the Bulls game against his former team Friday nightlast season, in his injury-plagued Bulls debut campaign, he suffered a setback after suiting up against the Pistonswhere he starred alongside the likes of current Clippers guard Chauncey Billups, Knicks reclamation project Rasheed Wallace and Detroits lone holdover from its 2004 title run, small forward Tayshaun Prince, a veteran used to winning upon his arrival in the league, but now demoted to a backup on a struggling, rebuilding team in the midst of a youth movement.

This is the game Ive got on my calendar, if any. This is the one game that I mark before the season even starts and say, All right, I cant wait, and to be injured, its frustrating to me because you want to help your team get a win, he explained. Me and Tay, Chaunce, all of us, were like brothers, so we talk once or twice a week. I talk to Tay all the time. Sometimes just hoping different things, but it is what it is. But its just one of those things hes trying to get through.

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.