Jordan Howard's debut season in the NFL culminated in one of the league's highest honors with a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Before he led the NFC squad in rushing with 21 yards in the game, Howard was approached by Jeremy Brener of OutSports and the Bears running back was among 14 Pro Bowlers who were in support of openly gay teammates:
"I'm pretty sure we would be supportive. We've been bonding together and that wouldn't change anything too much."
Michael Sam was the first openly gay football player to enter the NFL Draft and eventually went to the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round in 2014. But he never saw the field or recorded an NFL stat and officially retired in 2015. There are currently no openly gay players in the NFL.
OutSports was in Orlando, Fla., to check in with NFL players on LGBT issues, including comments on the tragic nightclub shooting in the city that rocked the nation in June.
Of the 18 players interviewed by Brener, 14 accompanied Howard in outwardly accepting a gay teammate while four other players took evasive action and did not directly answer the question.
Former Bears tight end Greg Olsen was among those who answered the question:
"I think it'd be great. It's a very open and honest group of guys. The locker room is a very understanding group and I think he would be treated no differently than everybody else."
Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings safety and former Notre Dame standout, said all that matters is "if you can do your job and you can play."
Joe Thomas — the outspoken left tackle of the Cleveland Browns — had maybe the most enlightening answer about how the landscape of the NFL locker room has evolved in recent years:
"It's amazing that the opinions in the locker room have changed 180 degrees from when I first started playing football to where they are right now. I think every locker room in the NFL would accept an openly gay teammate with open arms now, whereas it was such a taboo thing to even talk about when I first got into the league. I think that speaks to the tremendous progress that LGBT issues have had in such a short period of time."
Chicago Bears fans will get to enjoy a stress-free Sunday in Week 3 with the Bears playing Monday night against the Redskins. They'll have an opportunity to do a little advanced scouting of the NFC North, too, with all three division rivals in action Sunday afternoon in games that, unfortunately, may not present the biggest challenge.
The Packers (2-0) face an opponent familiar to the Bears when they welcome the Broncos to Lambeau Field. Green Bay is a heavy favorite (7.5 points) and based on what Denver revealed in Week 2, Aaron Rodgers should be more than capable of scoring enough points to give the Packers' top-tier defense enough of a cushion to beat up on Joe Flacco and the very average Broncos offense.
The Vikings (1-1) have arguably the easiest game in Week 3 against the Raiders (1-1) at home. Oakland was one of Week 1's surprise winners over the Broncos, but they came back to earth a bit in Week 2's loss to the Chiefs. Expect a rebound performance from Kirk Cousins and the rest of Minnesota's offense. The Vikings are the biggest NFC North favorites of the week; they're projected to win by nine points or more.
The Lions (1-0-1) have the most challenging game of the three as they'll travel to Philadelphia to face the 1-1 Eagles. Detroit was an upset-winner over the Chargers in Week 2 and very easily could be 2-0 had they held onto their lead in Week 1 against the Cardinals, but they simply aren't talented enough to expect much of a fight against Philadelphia, one of the NFC's Super Bowl favorites. The line is pretty close, however. The Eagles are only favored by 4.5 (at home).
The 2019 NFL season is still very young with only two weeks in its rear-view mirror, but the talking points surrounding Chicago Bears QB Mitch Trubisky are starting to get really old. He's been the subject of relentless criticism because of the offense's slow start and while some concerns regarding his development have merit, most of them are the product of impatience.
For example, the lazy suggestion that Trubisky is a bust because his 2017 NFL draft classmates Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson, both of whom he was drafted ahead of, are already league superstars is just wrong. Players evolve and develop at different speeds. Trubisky is the only one of the three on his second head coach and is only just now beginning to develop timing with his receivers, all of whom were added to the team via free agency or the draft last season. Neither Watson nor Mahomes have had nearly as much turbulence and turnover as Trubisky through three seasons. And that matters.
It also matters who a quarterback faces from week to week. Trubisky's 2019 season started against two of the NFL's better defenses in Green Bay and Denver, so his poor stat line is a combination of his below-average play meeting above-average defenses. It's tough for a young quarterback to get out of a slump when he's battling top-tier pass rushers and quality secondaries along the way.
Fortunately, he'll get his first big opportunity to put up quality stats against the Redskins Monday night; Washington is one of the NFL's worst defenses right now, including against the pass.
But Bears fans are still somewhat skeptical about Trubisky's ceiling in Week 3. A matchup like this should make a 300-yard game within his reach. Maybe even a couple of touchdowns. But according to a recent poll I ran on Twitter, Bears fans don't see it coming out that way.
The majority of fans (36%) think Trubisky will end the game with somewhere between 200-249 yards, which by today's NFL standards is very (very!) average. If you factor the 29% who think he won't even reach 200 yards, you end up with 65% of Bears fans thinking Trubisky won't reach 250 yards and, in theory, could struggle to even hit the 200-yard mark.
That's pretty surprising, considering the numbers the Redskins have given up in Weeks 1 and 2. Carson Wentz threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns in Week 1 against and Dak Prescott sliced them up for 269 yards and three touchdowns last Sunday. There's no reason to think Trubisky can't have a game similar to Prescott's, assuming Matt Nagy dials up the right plays to put him in position to succeed.