Bears

WSCR visit: Urlacher future not dependent on Roach

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WSCR visit: Urlacher future not dependent on Roach

The state of Brian Urlacher now, a month from now, a year from now is the dominant story line through the Bears right now. It shouldnt be.

If it is inside the locker room, the Bears can probably forget the playoffs. Talking with Danny Mac and Ben Finfer (filling in for Matt Spiegel on Thursday) on The McNeil and Spiegel Show on WSCR-AM 670 at our weekly 10 a.m. slot, that conclusion suggested itself.

At some point, whether now or sometime over the offseason, its very possible that Urlacher will be done as a Bear. But that will be more a matter of economics what 54 thinks his value is vs. what the Bears believe it is than ability shortfall. And obviously whether or not Lovie Smith is back or a new coach is insistent on keeping that part of the defensive core.

As I said to the guys, its a mistake to measure Urlacher on a curve, what he was in times when he was an annual part of the debate over defensive player of the year vs. what he is now.

Right now he is just a very good linebacker. He leads the Bears in tackles. Teams that let leading tacklers (or for that matter, players at any position) walk either have a clear succession plan they want to implement (e.g., Aaron Rodgers for Brett Favre in Green Bay) or making a money decision.

Nick Roach is part of the future and Lovie Smith told me on more than one occasion that Roach fits the template for middle linebackers in his defensive scheme. But are the Bears better with Roach at strong side and Urlacher in the middle, or Roach in the middle and Geno Hayes at strong side? Easy call.

At the right price.

All of this presupposes Urlacher healthy enough after his various physical issues (back, knee, hamstring) over the recent past. But a casual thought here is that if Urlacher plays at 10-15 pounds lighter, he gets back some mobility and lightens the load on his legs.

Folks within Halas Hall have told me that the Bears under Lovie Smith will not draft a middle linebacker. Theyll definitely draft speed linebackers, but Smith is of a mind that the scheme that he and Rod Marinelli have run since days with Derrick Brooks in Tampa fares better with runners vs. pluggers. Urlacher was simply a freak who can do both.

If Nick Roach proves what Smith has believed all along that he is a workable middle linebacker the Bears will have a Plan B at the ready, something every team craves. But if Plan A is still at the NFL level, it wont be idly cast aside.

Can Cairo Santos be the kicker the Bears need?

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USA Today

Can Cairo Santos be the kicker the Bears need?

Since the Bears inserted Mitchell Trubisky as their starting quarterback, they've had 12 drives end with a field goal — an average of two per game. Connor Barth hit nine of those dozen kicks, which had an average distance of 38.4 yards, but all three of Barth’s misses came from 45 yards or longer. 

Barth’s missed game-tying 46-yarder in the final seconds Sunday against the Detroit Lions was the last straw for someone who hadn’t been consistent in his one and a half years in Chicago. So enter Cairo Santos, who made 89 of 105 field goals (85 percent) from 2014-2017 with the Kansas City Chiefs. More importantly: Santos has made 73 percent of his career field goals from 40 or more yards; Barth made 52 percent of his kicks from the same distance with the Bears. 

(73 percent from long range isn’t bad, but it’s not great, either: Philadelphia Eagles kicker and Lyons Township High School alum Jake Elliott has made 88 percent of his 40-plus-yard kicks; Harrison Butker, who replaced Santos in Kansas City, has made 90 percent of his kicks from that distance. Both players are rookies who were drafted and cut prior to the season.)

Santos was released by the Chiefs in late September after a groin injury landed him on injured reserve (he played in three games prior to being released). The injury wasn’t expected to be season-ending, and Santos said he’s felt 100 percent for about two weeks before joining the Bears on Monday. 

“It was a long and difficult battle, but I was confident that it wasn’t going to be a serious injury, I just needed time,” Santos said. “I dealt with it in training camp, I was kicking really well, I was the only kicker in KC, and I didn’t have the appropriate time to heal. I tried to play the first three games and it got worse, so my main goal was to get 100 percent. I’ve been kicking for about a month now and finally the last week been able to come here and visit with the Bears. The muscle is in good shape to come and take a full load of a week’s practice and games, so thankful the opportunity worked out.”

For Santos, these next six weeks can be an audition for him to stick in Chicago next year. If the Bears can look optimistically at the improvements made by the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams with second-year top-drafted quarterbacks, they’ll need to figure out their kicking situation sooner rather than later. Bringing in Santos provides a good opportunity for that down the stretch. 

“He’s kicked in Kansas City, which is a similar climate,” special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers said. “Their field is similar to Soldier Field. He’s played in some big games, played in some important situations and he’s, by and large, been successful in those situations.”

Another wild twist in the Derrick Rose saga

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USA TODAY

Another wild twist in the Derrick Rose saga

We may have seen the last of Derrick Rose on a basketball court. 

According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin and Adrian Wojnarowski, the point guard, who's currently recovering from ankle injury, is away from the Cavaliers organization and contemplating his future in basketball: 

The news may come as a shock considering Rose is still only 29 years old, but the Chicago native has experienced triumphant highs and depressing lows like few others in league history. Undoubtedly, that's taken a toll. 

From youngest MVP in league history to injury-prone backup, the former No. 1 pick of the Bulls has seen it all in his nine-year career. And just last season in New York, his passion for the game was called into question after missing a game without informing coaches, players or staff to attend to a family issue. 

He decided to team up with LeBron James in Cleveland last offseason -- a move that nobody could have predicted five years ago -- on a veteran's minimum contract, and averaged 14.3 points before, you guessed it, being forced to sit with injury. 

Fred Hoiberg, who coached Rose for one season in Chicago, weighed in before Friday's Bulls-Warriors game: 

If Rose ultimately decides to step away for good, eerie parallels can be drawn to Doug Collins' NBA stint. Collins didn't have quite the upside Rose had, but he was a three-time All-Star before foot and knee injuries cut his career short at, yes, also 29. 

It's another sad twist in the Derrick Rose Story. He may be the greatest 'What if' in NBA history.