Cubs

Suspended Rees lending help wherever he can

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Suspended Rees lending help wherever he can

The circumstances are different, but the rhetoric is the same.

Tommy Rees won't start Notre Dame's season opener against Navy in Dublin, Ireland on the first day of September. He's suspended for the game, the result of a "set of poor decisions," as coach Brian Kelly said, made at an off-campus party last May. At Wednesday's practice, Rees didn't take a single snap in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills.

Rewind to last season, when Dayne Crist was benched for all but a handful of plays after being yanked following a rough first half in Notre Dame's season-opening loss to USF. Despite his demotion and infrequent playing time, Crist was held in high esteem for his attitude and work ethic.

"Even if he's not out there, he's still a leader on the team," former running back Jonas Gray said last October. "A lot of guys look up to him."

"Great guy, great leader," added Michael Floyd in December. "For all the stuff that went on in his career here, he still held his head up high and stayed a good friend to me and a good teammate to everyone."

Rees' career path may not follow that of Crist, who transferred to Kansas following the conclusion of Notre Dame's regular season last year. But, for now, the explanations of Rees' fellow quarterbacks as to how helpful he's been sound somewhat familiar.

"He's been such a positive influence on all three of the younger guys," Andrew Hendrix said. "Having Tommy back there at all times is really an invaluable resource that we have."

Everett Golson, who's been pegged by some as the favorite to win the starting gig, rooms with Rees and said the junior has been very accessible when it comes to helping him out. But, at the same time, Golson acknowledged how odd it is for Rees to watch while nearly the entire team moves forward without him, at least for the first game.

"It is awkward," Golson said. "I praise Tommy for that, because I don't know if I could really do that. Tommy's a great guy."

And Gunner Kiel, a true freshman, is trying to soak up as much of Rees' experience with the Notre Dame offense as he possibly can.

"He knows so much about the game," Kiel said. "I talked to Tommy outside of football, and he says he wants to be a college coach. He definitely has the ability and mind for it. It's great having him in there to teach us all the stuff he knows."

It's likely too early to peg Rees as nothing more than a coach this season. Maybe that's in his future -- Hendrix agreed with the notion that Rees would make a fantastic college coach.

But Kelly has said Rees can "attempt to climb the depth chart" after the Navy game, and the third-year coach has also said he won't hesitate to make a switch at quarterback if he isn't pleased with the level of play from that position in the season opener.

So the door isn't completely shut on Rees starting another game for Notre Dame in the future. He's apologized for his arrest, which resulted in a pair of guilty pleas on misdemeanor charges. While he's not directly a part of Notre Dame's quarterback battle, Rees' teammates see a player who's still doing everything he can to help.

"That's the past," Hendrix said. "We're just moving forward."

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

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With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

The Bears placed Leonard Floyd on injured reserve Thursday morning, ending the second-year outside linebacker’s season following a knee injury suffered Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Floyd suffered an MCL and PCL injury and will have surgery in the next week, coach John Fox said, and the Bears do not have a timetable for his recovery yet. But that Floyd didn't suffer damage to his ACL is potentially good news for Floyd's recovery timetable. 

Still, with Floyd on injured reserve and out for the season, the Bears’ current outside linebacker depth chart consists of two veterans (Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho) and two practice squad signees (Isaiah Irving and Howard Jones). These final six games of the 2017 season could serve as auditions for all four players for roles on the 2018 Bears. 

If every team needs at least three good pass rushers, the Bears can count on Akiem Hicks and Floyd for 2018, provided Floyd comes back healthy. But who’s the third?

The Bears could save about $7.5 million in cap space if they release McPhee in 2018; if they were to cut ties with Willie Young, who’s on injured reserve right now as well, it would provide $4.5 million in cap relief. McPhee will be 29 in December, while Young will turn 33 next September. 

The Bears won’t necessarily need the cap relief next year, and could certainly decide to keep both players, who’ve shown they’re still productive when healthy. But even if both players are back, the Bears may need to add another outside linebacker via free agency of the draft — remember, the team could’ve began the season with Floyd, Young, McPhee, Acho and Lamarr Houston as their outside linebackers; an injury Houston suffered in the fourth preseason game ended his time in Chicago. 

Needs at wide receiver and cornerback are pressing, but outside linebacker may need to be in that same conversation. If the Bears have a top-10 pick for the fourth consecutive year, plus some cap space, they perhaps could have the ability to address all three needs in March and April. 

That may be looking a little too far into the future, though. The best-case for the Bears is McPhee finishes the season strong and Irving and/or Jones shows something in the opportunities they receive in these final six games (Jones, for what it’s worth, had five sacks as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015). But the worst-case — and perhaps the most realistic — is that the Bears go into the offseason needing to fill at least one pass-rushing spot.