Bears

Bears moving on without Forte

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Bears moving on without Forte

For much of the past offseason the Bears have been preparing for life without Matt Forte. Not explicitly anything directed at Forte personally, just at not having their offense as mightily dependent on one running back.

Trading for Brandon Marshall, drafting Alshon Jeffery, drafting a receiver-type tight end (Evan Rodriguez), signing another 28-year-old running back with starter experience (Marion Barber last year, Michael Bush this year) all the moves tilt the offense away from reliance on Forte.

Forte is not in minicamp, having still not signed his franchise tag of 7.7 million nor agreed with the Bears on a long-term deal. Indeed, if that does not happen before Monday, July 16, the franchise tag is his only option for 2012.

Teammates have said on more than one occasion that they expect Forte to be with them this season, and most anticipate him being in Bourbonnais for training camp.

But nothing is waiting on Forte.

I know Matt Forte, coach Lovie Smith said Tuesday. Im sure hes getting ready to go. But in the meantime, the best thing we can do for the Chicago Bears is just keep this train going, which weve done.

Put simply, Fortes leverage for getting the Bears offer up to the level he wants is diminishing. The Bears put what they thought was a fair offer on the table at the outset of last training camp. They increased the guaranteed money slightly over the ensuing months.

Forte then suffered a knee injury and missed most of the last five games. Playing the Pro Bowl was a health statement but the only real movement the Bears have made since then was to add players to bolster their passing offense and to deepen the depth chart behind Forte.

Smith, who mentioned Bush first, unprompted, in his introductory comments after practice Tuesday, was not sending a message to Forte. But the message was there and unmistakable: If the Bears have to start the season with Bush, who is signed for four years, they will.

Its not like hes new to us, Smith said. We had a chance to see him up close and personal last year. Big running back who can catch the ball out of the backfield, can block with his size.

I think hes a complete player and weve been very pleased. Getting all these reps has helped him a lot getting the offense down quickly.

Forte had two years under Ron Turner, then two years under Mike Martz. Now the coordinator is Mike Tice. Strange as it sounds, Forte will have some catching up to do.

When he shows up, Smith said, well be ready to coach him up then.

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

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Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.

History.

That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: