Bulls

Cautiously optimistic: Toews feeling better

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Cautiously optimistic: Toews feeling better

Jonathan Toews walked into the Johnnys Ice House locker room with a smile on his face. Its been a long few weeks for the Blackhawks captain, who was coming back nicely, then had a setback, and now is hopefully recovering again from his concussion.

But hes not pegging a game for his return. Not again.

Im not going to do that again, he said with a grin. Obviously that didnt work out (last time).

No, it didnt. But Toews, after skating for the fifth consecutive day - and practicing with teammates for the first time in nearly two weeks -- is nevertheless feeling better. And hes feeling that this time he could be truly turning the corner towards recovery.

Toews is confident hell play this season.

It sucks its taken this long but I feel this is it, Toews said Saturday. Mentally Im positive and telling myself that Ill get through this. Im not going to let the setbacks that have happened (before) weigh me down.

Coach Joel Quenneville said Toews jumped into a couple drills there and looked fine. Theres progress there, so well keep working at it.

Toews was feeling good after skating four straight days in early March, so good that he was targeting the Blackhawks March 13 game vs. St. Louis as a potential return date. But he suffered a setback a day or two before that, and was once again on the shelf. Toews said he wouldnt feel right when he got up in the morning, or symptoms would hit him when he came to the rink, hoping to take the ice.

Ive gotta say its probably the most frustrating thing Ive been through, he said. I had those hopes and feelings that I was going to be ready not even a week into the recovery process. Here I am past a month, still waiting to see when its going to get better the way I was three weeks ago. When you wake up every single day thinking this will be the day youll break through and things are going to happen for you, and it turns out it isnt, its tough to keep going that way.

Toews will obviously keep playing the cautious game. Even when hes deemed 100 percent, he may take another day or two to fully prepare for game action again.

Id love to be playing as soon as I can and get a couple of those games under my belt. At the same time I want to make sure Im in game shape before I go into the game, he said. I dont want to go in feeling like I still need conditioning, still need to catch up. If youre a step slow you may take a hit or two you dont want to take.

Its been a long and frustrating road for Toews. Hes hoping this is the end of the rough part of it.

I feel like Im getting back to that stage where Im progressing and getting closer to feeling the right way, he said. It was a while ago when I felt pretty much the same way I do now. Im just staying positive and hoping theres a time Ill break through.

Bulls Talk Podcast: How NBA Draft combine impacted mock drafts

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: How NBA Draft combine impacted mock drafts

On this edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill discuss the NBA Draft and what happened at the NBA combine that shifted most experts mock drafts.

Kendall also explains why a "promise" to draft a player isn’t guaranteed. He also shares his experience on getting drafted by the Hornets and why he initially felt they were the wrong team for him.

North Carolina "News and Observer" Duke basketball beat writer Jonathan Alexander gives us his opinion on Wendell Carter and the other Duke draft prospects including why he thinks Carter will be a future all-star. Also includes an interview with Carter from the draft combine.

Listen to the full Bulls Talk Podcast right here:

Bears coaching upheavals portend inevitable stumbles

Bears coaching upheavals portend inevitable stumbles

Call it a small Bears reality check, if not a full wake-up call, then at least a nudge in the night. And this sort of thing should be expected, not just in OTAs, not just in training camp or preseason, but when it all counts.

And it should serve as a lesson of sorts. Because some of the underlying reasons are worth a little highlighting and patient understanding around a team that has spent its offseason and millions of dollars refashioning an offense, beginning with coach Matt Nagy and coordinator Mark Helfrich, and that offense wasn’t particularly good on Wednesday.

In a sport where the operative cliché is “just get better each and every day,” the Bears didn’t, but as far as their coach is concerned, “there’s two ways to look at it,” Nagy said. “Whether you say on our side, on offense, trying to see a bunch of different looks a defense can give you, is it too much or not? It’s good for us. It’ll help us out in the long run. It’s good for our players and they’ve handled it well. There’s going to be mistakes but they have it on tape to be able to look at. “

This is about more than just a few bad reps or missed assignments. It’s part of the good-news-bad-news reality that a sea change brings to a team.

The good news is that the Bears have a new coaching staff on offense.

The bad news is that the Bears have a new coaching staff on offense.

The Bears defense is predictably ahead of the offense, hardly a surprise, given that most of the core of the top-10 unit has remained in place. That said, you do have to like the attitude of the barely-above-rookie No. 1 quarterback challenging that assessment Wednesday, with a “Who says that?”

This while the offense has myriad moving and new parts, and interceptions, blown plays and such were occurring for an offense that, like Halas Hall, is a massive building work in progress.

“Well, today was a bad ‘build,’ but that’s to be expected,” Helfrich acknowledged. “We’re adding a chunk each day, I thought today was the first day where we had somebody do something that just like, ‘wait, OK’ – a few positions here and there, a few new guys, obviously a few veterans here and there that it’s all new to, hit the wall.”

It’s a “wall” that arguably is inevitable with a coaching change.

Not to make excuses, but….

For a sense of perspective, scroll back to Jay Cutler, who went through offensive coordinators perhaps faster than he went through socks: a year with Ron Turner, two with Mike Martz, one with Mike Tice, two with Aaron Kromer, one with Adam Gase, one with Dowell Loggains, who at least was a holdover from the Gase year. (Whether Cutler’s failure to match potential with production was the cause of or because of that turnover, this humble and faithful narrator leaves to you, the reader).

More than a few current Bears can only dream of that kind of “stability.” And because of that, the 2018 pre- and regular seasons may be bumpier than the optimism surrounding the Nagy hire was anticipating.

Guard Kyle Long, still not practicing full-go while he rehabs from surgeries, is on his fifth offensive-line coach in six NFL seasons. Center Cody Whitehair, who has started every game since the Bears drafted him in the 2016 second round, has had three different line coaches in as many seasons: Dave Magazu for 2016, Jeremiah Washburn for 2017 and now Harry Hiestand. Left tackle Charles Leno was drafted in 2014, making Hiestand Leno’s fourth O-line coach.

And this is the offensive line, the unit that most engenders use of the term “continuity.”

“Each coach brings in a little bit, different techniques,” Whitehair said. “There’s a lot of time for us to hone in and get to know what he’s trying to teach us. But in the end it’s still football.”

Kevin White is entering his fourth NFL season. He is on his fourth receivers coach (Mike Groh, Curtis Johnson, Zach Azzanni, Mike Furrey) and third different season-starting quarterback (Jay Cutler, Mike Glennon, Mitch Trubisky), not including offseason battery mates ranging from Jimmy Clausen, Brian Hoyer, David Fales and Connor Shaw, depending on how much rep time he spent with which unit at various times during his training camps.

“It doesn’t matter,” White said. “Roll with the punches, come here and do my job every day.”

Regardless of how many bosses you’ve reported to.