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Bucs sign paralyzed player, tell inspirational story

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Bucs sign paralyzed player, tell inspirational story

Despite clashing opinions about the draft or team differences throughout the NFL, one story can warm everyone's heart. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed a paralyzed player; a player who is a symbol of strength and dedication, a perfect example of what it means to never give up and always shoot for your dreams.

Eric LeGrand was a junior at Rutgers University, and Oct. 16, 2010 was just supposed to be another game day. The 6-foot-2 defensive tackle took the field against the Army Black Knights, not knowing that would be the last time he'd run onto New Meadowlands Stadium.

LeGrand suffered a severe spinal injury in an on-field collision and laid helplessly for several minutes before being brought to the Hackensack University Medical Center. The only thing he could move was his head.

At the hospital, his mother was informed her son was paralyzed from the neck down. No one on the medical staff thought he'd be able to survive without the use of a ventilator.

They were wrong.

Five weeks later, LeGrand began breathing on his own. Quickly after, he could stand up with the assistance of a metal frame.

Former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano is now coaching for the Bucs. When draft time came around, he couldn't help but think of LeGrand and how this would have been his draft class. So, he decided to bring his former DT on board.

"This small gesture is the least we could do to recognize his character, spirit, and perseverance. The way Eric lives his life epitomizes what we are looking for in Buccaneer Men."

After visiting the New York Jets training camp last season, linebacker Bart Scott was truly moved by LeGrand's spirit and sees his addition to the Bucs as being beneficial to not only Tampa Bay, but to the entire league.

"He's been so strong through the process and life deals with certain things, and it's all about how we choose to deal with it. I think that he's embraced it and he took the challenge on. I think he should be an inspiration to a lot of people."

ICYMI: Bears shutdown Rams, Bulls embarrassed, Blackhawks lose eighth-straight, Baines and Smith elected to Hall of Fame

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USA TODAY

ICYMI: Bears shutdown Rams, Bulls embarrassed, Blackhawks lose eighth-straight, Baines and Smith elected to Hall of Fame

The Bears took the Rams with a masterful defensive effort, the Bulls suffered their worst loss in franchise history and the Blackhawks' lost their eighth-straight game. Here's what you may have missed from the weekend.

Bears

The Bears took down the 11-1 Rams, who entered Soldier Field No. 1 in the NFC playoff standings. While Mitchell Trubisky struggled in his return to action, the Bears proved that defense still matters, allowing just 214 yards and intercepting Jared Goff four times en route to a 15-6 win.

Can the defense repeat the performance in the playoffs? With Sunday's win, the Bears are now just one win away from clinching a postseason berth. 

While the Bears scored just 15 points on one touchdown, they did so in entertaining fashion. Backup offensive lineman Bradley Sowell caught a touchdown pass on 3rd & goal to put the Bears up 15-6, which ultimately was the game's final score. The play's name? "Santa's Sleigh."

Plus, while the offense didn't score many points, it did neutralize superstar defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

Kyle Fuller was one of the four Bears to intercept Goff, the cornerback's seventh this season. Fuller has let his play do the talking in 2018 after signing a four-year contract with the Bears in the offseason.

On the latest Under Center Podcast, Lance Briggs, Alex Brown, Matt Forte and Laurence Holmes try to figure out what’s next for the Bears.

Bulls

Friday night, the Bulls picked up their best win of the season, beating the Thunder 114-112. The difference? Having Lauri Markkanen back in the fold, who scored 24 points in his third game of the season. The win was Jim Boylen's first as an NBA head coach, and he celebrated in a unique way.

The good times ended on Saturday, as the Bulls suffered their worst loss in franchise history. Boylen benched his starters for the game's final 21 minutes, a move that did not sit well with the team.

According to a report, some Bulls players debated attending practice at all. The team ultimately held both a players-only meeting and meeting between the players and coaching staff on Sunday rather than practice.

In brighter news, Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis, who have been out since October with sprained MCLs, could return to action Monday against the Kings.

Blackhawks

The Blackhawks took their first lead in 527:14 regulation minutes Thursday night, going ahead of the Golden Knights 3-2 on an Artem Anisimov goal. The lead was short-lived though, as the Blackhawks fell to Vegas 4-3.

Sunday featured another close game for the Blackhawks, though Chicago ultimately lost to the Canadiens 3-2. The loss was the seventh-straight for the Blackhawks, who have not won since Nov. 24 against the Panthers.

Connor Murphy returned to game action Sunday night against the Canadiens. The defenseman missed the Blackhawks' first 30 games with a back injury.

Cubs 

Lee Smith, the Cubs' all-time saves leader, was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday night. Smith is third all-time in saves in MLB history as well.

According to a report, the Cubs are not making slugger Kyle Schwarber available for trade. However, Theo Epstein is reportedly working to add a "professional hitter" to the Cubs lineup. 

In this week's edition of Bryce Harper to the Cubs rumors, MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac predicted that Harper will sign with the Cubs. The Nationals' owner doesn't expect to retain the right-fielder, seemingly eliminating Washington them from the Harper sweepstakes.

But what would the ripple effects of the Cubs signing Harper look like? And if he signs a mega-deal, how can Harper improve live up to it?

Could pitching help be coming for the Cubs through their farm system? Fangraphs predicts several pitchers will make their MLB debuts with the Cubs in 2019.

Former Cubs' catcher Miguel Montero is on to his next endeavor: baseball agent.

In tragic news, former Cub Luis Valbuena and former MLB infielder José Castillo died in a car accident Thursday night in Venezuela. In his latest column, Doug Glanville wrote about how the loss of both players is a reminder how quickly things can change for baseball players.

White Sox

Former White Sox All-Star Harold Baines was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is ecstatic with the move.

With the Winter Meetings kicking off this week, the White Sox are reportedly contenders for both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Will they hit the jackpot in Vegas this week?

On the latest White Sox Talk Podcast, Chuck Garfien, Ryan McGuffey and Chris Kamka make their predictions for where the top-15 free agents will sign this winter

Bears neutralize Aaron Donald as Jordan Howard has his best game of 2018

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USA Today

Bears neutralize Aaron Donald as Jordan Howard has his best game of 2018

The Bears’ defense holding the Rams’ offense to six points was remarkable on Sunday night. But perhaps just as remarkable: Jordan Howard having his first 100-yard game of 2018 in the face of Aaron Donald, the best defensive player in the NFL. 

Howard ran for 101 yards on 19 carries, proving to be a critical component of a 15-6 win that all but assured the Bears of a playoff spot. Not only was Howard effective and efficient, his success on the ground — along with that of Tarik Cohen (nine carries, 69 yards) — led the Bears to Bears have the ball for about 13 1/2 more minutes than the Rams. Meaning: The league’s best offense was only on the field for a little over 23 ineffective minutes on Sunday night. 

“I just had to stay patient, I knew my time was going to come,” Howard said. “I didn’t know when but I just knew I had to be ready.”

Upping the impressiveness of Howard’s game was it happened on a field shared by Donald, who was being talked up as a legitimate candidate for league MVP despite not being a quarterback. Donald was largely invisible, recording only two tackles and one quarterback hit as the Bears blocked and schemed him out of having a major impact. 

For an offensive line that didn’t have much success run blocking against lesser competition, what Harry Hiestand’s unit did Sunday night to set up Howard’s day was nothing short of impressive. 

“If you study his film and know how he’s going to play, and know how he can hurt plays, so if we run the ball just make sure he doesn’t do this because that hurts the play,” left guard James Daniels said. “So that’s just something we focused on all week.”

Those game-wrecking plays were absent from Donald all night. Howard didn’t have a single rushing attempt that went for negative yardage, this a week after five of his 16 runs against the New York Giants went for a loss. 

“We just trusted our technique and the coaches put us in a good spot, and we had a good plan in store,” center Cody Whitehair said. “But credit to our guards and the guys that blocked him. They did a nice job and handled him very well.”

Donald barely pressured Mitch Trubisky, too, the product of strong blocking from the entire line, Daniels, Whitehair, Charles Leno, Bobby Massie and Bryan Witzmann. The Bears’ strategy was to not let Donald beat them, and while the offense was hardly at its best on Sunday night, it accomplished that goal. 

“He didn't have any game-destructive plays that he usually causes,” Trubisky said. “That's something that we definitely kept in the back of our minds. If we just play smart, take care of the football, create positive plays on offense, get a few more scores, then we can come out and get a W, which we did.
 
“… We definitely want to score more, but we did what we had to do, didn't give up any game-changing plays to Donald and the defense did the rest.”

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