Bears

Bollig happy to stick up for Blackhawks teammates

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Bollig happy to stick up for Blackhawks teammates

Brandon Bollig shook off his gloves and prepared to face St. Louis tough guy Ryan Reaves. It was the hometown kids moment in St. Louis last week, a chance for his family to see him at his pugilistic best.

Even if theres a mixed reaction to Bollig putting up his dukes.

I dont think my mom likes it too much but my dad enjoys it, said Bollig with a smile, the same one he usually displays during his fights. Theyre along for the ride and fans at this point. Its as fun for them as it is for me. Theyre happy to see me at this level.

And now that hes at this level, Bollig will do whatever it takes to stay here.

Bollig is known for his fighting prowess and he hasnt disappointed in his short stint with the Blackhawks -- he has five fights in seven games games. He added that fifth on Tuesday night, going after Reaves for his hit on Jamal Mayers in the Blackhawks 4-3 shootout victory over the Blues. Bolligs energy and drive to stick up for teammates has resonated throughout the Blackhawks locker room.

There was no hesitation. He just jumped right in the pile there and fought him. That got us pumped, said Patrick Kane. Its good to know we can play a physical game like that.

But coach Joel Quenneville said the rookie has brought so much more than just the bruiser mentality.

I thought hed be pretty excited the last time he went into St. Louis. But I like how hes playing, and Im not talking about his fighting, he said. I think that, positionally, he has awareness. He brings energy and finishes hits. Technically, hes doing the right things. Hes been a nice fit for us.

On Bolligs response on Tuesday, Quenneville said, he did what he had to do. That was a good response to a big hit.

Bollig knows his calling card and figures itll be that way most of his career. The native of St. Charles, Mo., doesnt mind the fights, although even hes surprised that hes had this many so soon. He and Reaves bout in St. Louis was a lengthy and memorable one for Bollig, who tapped Reaves on the helmet in a good-fight gesture afterward.

You have to have respect for guys who are willing to do it that much, Bollig said. Its obviously something you have to have a certain mental awareness to do, and maybe be a little messed up in the head to do it all the time. Everyone here is kind of tough in their own right.

Bollig has proven his toughness quickly in the NHL. His teammates appreciate several aspects of his game. And whatever keeps him in the big leagues, hes ready to do it.

I think at this point willing to do what I have to do to stay here; if its fighting every night, Im wiling to do that. Bollig said. I hope theres not a time when I get tired of it or not willing to do it because thatll be the time Im done with the game.

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith has more sheared sheep than tackles on his stat sheet as a pro football player.

Smith and several other Bears rookies participated in a hands-on community event at Lambs Farm in Libertyville, Illinois on Monday where he assisted farm staff with the sheep's grooming. Smith said it was a first for him despite growing up around animals. 

"It's like on the norm for me though, playing linebacker you're in the trenches," Smith said of the experience.

"Shaving a sheep, I never really envisioned myself doing something like that," Smith said via ChicagoBears.com. "I was around animals [growing up], but it was more so cows and goats here and there and dogs and cats. I've petted a sheep before, but never actually flipped one and shaved one."

Bears rookies got up close and personal with more than just sheep.

Smith was selected with the eighth overall pick in April's draft and will assume a starting role opposite Danny Trevathan at inside linebacker this season. Here's to hoping he can wrangle opposing ball-carriers like a sheep waiting to be sheared.

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

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USA Today Sports Images

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

Asking players about how the defense is “ahead” of the offense is a yearly right of passage during OTAs, sort of like how every baseball team has about half its players saying they’re in the best shape of their life during spring training. So that Vic Fangio’s defense is ahead of Matt Nagy’s offense right now isn’t surprising, and it's certainly not concerning. 

But Nagy is also working to install his offense right now during OTAs to build a foundation for training camp. So does the defense — the core of which is returning with plenty of experience in Fangio’s system — being ahead of the offense hurt those efforts?

“It’s actually good for us because we’re getting an experienced defense,” Nagy said. “My message to the team on the offensive side is just be patient and don’t get frustrated. They understand that they’re going to play a little bit faster than us right now. We’ll have some growing pains, but we’ll get back to square one in training camp.”

We’ll have a chance to hear from the Bears’ offensive players following Wednesday’s practice, but for now, the guys on Fangio’s defense have come away impressed with that Nagy’s offense can be. 

“The offense is a lot … just very tough,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “They’re moving well. They’re faster. They’re throwing a lot of different looks at us and that’s just Nagy’s offense. If I was a receiver I would love to play in this offense, just because you get to do so many different things and you get so many different plays. It just looks fun over there.”

“They’re moving together, and I like to see that,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “We’re not a bad defense. They’re practicing against us, so they’re getting better every day, and vice versa. It’s a daily grind. It’s going to be tough, but those guys, they got the right pieces. I like what I see out there. When somebody makes a play, they’re gone. Everybody can run over there. It’s the right fit for Mitch, it’s the right fit for the receivers, the running backs.”

Still, for all the praise above, the defense is “winning” more, at least as much as it can without the pads on. But the offense is still having some flashes, even as it collectively learns the terminology, concepts and formations used by Nagy. 

And that leads to a competitive atmosphere at Halas Hall, led by the Bears’ new head coach. 

“He’s an offensive coach and last year coach (John) Fox, I couldn’t really talk stuff to (him) because he’s a defensive coach and it’s like Nagy’s offense so if I get a pick or something, I mean, I like to talk stuff to him,” Amukamara said. “He’ll say something like ‘we’re coming at you 2-0.’ Stuff like that. That just brings out the competition and you always want that in your head coach.”