Bears

Changing sides of rivalry still surreal for Liriano

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Changing sides of rivalry still surreal for Liriano

MINNEAPOLIS -- New pitcher Francisco Liriano was still in on shock on Monday, a little less than 48 hours after the White Sox acquired him in a trade.

As he addressed the media from the visiting dugout at Target Field, Liriano, who will start here against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night, couldnt get over the surprising nature of a trade that sent him from one side of an American League Central rivalry to the other.

Liriano said he was about to fall asleep on Saturday night in preparation for a Sunday start against the Cleveland Indians when the phone rang to inform him he had been traded. Liriano stayed in Minneapolis on Sunday and merely moved his belongings down the hall at Target Field to meet his new teammates.

Everything feels weird, Liriano said. Its just surprising. I was ready to go to bed and got the phone call around 10:30 (p.m.). I was in shock, I wasnt expecting it to get traded, the night before the game and get traded to the same division was weird, too. But things happen.

Lirianos new catcher understands what his pitcher is experiencing.

A.J. Pierzynskis move to the White Sox came more than a full season after he was traded by the Twins to the San Francisco Giants. Pierzynski had an offseason to adapt to the idea but admits it still felt funny at first.

When I first walked into SoxFest after I had signed, I remember looking at my wife and saying This is weird looking at all the White Sox stuff, Pierzynski said. But once I got to know the guys and the organization it was a pretty easy transition after that.

Pierzynski said he plans to speak with Liriano after Mondays game to start a plan for Tuesday, when Liriano faces the only major league team for whom he has ever pitched just to ease him in.

Im sure well talk probably tonight after the game, what he likes to do and how he likes to pitch, Pierzynski said. Hes been an All-Star, hes thrown a no-hitter, hes been good against us so well focus on the positives and go from there. He can be a factor in this race.

Liriano said he doesnt plan to change anything he has done on the mound. After a difficult start in April, one he attributed Sunday to putting too much pressure on himself, Liriano believes he is better than his 3-10 record and 5.31 ERA indicate. Liriano has struck out a 9.81 batters per nine innings this season, his highest since 2006, which would indicate his stuff isnt an issue.

He estimates he knows seven of his new teammates well, including Orlando Hudson, Philip Humber and Jesse Crain, all of whom played with him in Minnesota. Now he needs to focus on contributions and familiarizing himself with a new club even though the transition will be strange.

I havent done my game plan yet, Liriano said. It feels so weird. I faced the White Sox so many times. So weird. Nothing I can do about it, just do my job and try to fit in.

Rob Gronkowski "highly unlikely" to play Sunday against the Bears

Rob Gronkowski "highly unlikely" to play Sunday against the Bears

Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the Patriots will be a tough test for the Bears, but it looks like they're going to receive a big break.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't travel with the Patriots to Chicago and is "highly unlikely" to play Sunday.

Avoiding Gronkowski, who is one of Brady's favorite targets, would be a huge break for the Bears' defense. In six games this season, the tight end has 26 receptions for 405 yards and a touchdown; in 14 games last season, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday after despite dealing with an ankle injury. Between having Mack on the field and Gronkowski off of it, good news keeps coming for Bears' defense.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”