Goodell: Chicago 'earned' the right to host the 2016 NFL Draft


Goodell: Chicago 'earned' the right to host the 2016 NFL Draft

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — Chi-Town is once again Draft Town.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a joint press conference on Tuesday at the NFL owners meeting at the Hyatt Regency in Schaumburg, Ill., announcing that the NFL draft will return to Chicago next April.

"We're coming back to Chicago for the Draft in May of 2016," Goodell said. "We're thrilled. They have earned it. The success we had last year set a new bar for the Draft. It set a new opportunity for fans to interact with the NFL. It had a tremendous impact on this community. The Bears, the city and the fans did an absolute extraordinary job and we are thrilled to be coming back."

"I want to thank the NFL Draft and all the franchises for once again picking the city of Chicago," Mayor Emanuel added. "We've made the Second City the first choice again and the NFL Draft is a world class event and I'm proud they picked a world class city like the city of Chicago."

[BEARS CAMP: Cutler's interception-less streak reaches 11 games]

Chicago will host the festivities from April 28-30, although a location for the event has yet to be determined.

"We're still determining," NFL Vice President Peter O'Reilly said. "Obviously, we had a great experience last year at the Auditorium Theatre, but we're using this time now that we're announcing more than two months in advance of when we announced last year to look at all the options. Certainly the new normal of the Draft now is the big fan festival and that will still be in Grant Park, but we're still using the time over the next couple of months to really nail down where the venues will be.

"Leaving New York after 51 years we were able, in Chicago, to take the Draft to a new level. Over 200,000 thousand people in Grant Park. We've set a new bar here in Chicago. This was our challenge to our partners here in Chicago: How do we continue to raise the bar in 2016? We have every confidence that we will raise that bar in 2016. Get even more fans in Grant Park for Draft Town. It is a new normal for the draft."

The city of Chicago hosted the the 2015 NFL Draft last April — after previously being held in New York for the last half-century — and many NFL officials praised the city for the event. According to a Sport Industry Research Center at Temple University that was instructed by the Chicago Sports Commission, the Draft generated a total economic impact of $81.6 million. That same research found that half of the attendees were from outside the city of Chicago and generated 31,000 hotel nights. NFL staff, sponsors and media generated another 5,600 hotel nights.

The NFL announced that the league will work with the Bears, Mayor Emanuel, Choose Chicago, the Chicago Sports Commission and the Chicago Park District on week-long Draft events, with the plan being to expand Draft Town and add youth clinics and community programs, similar to last year's festivities leading up the 2016 NFL Draft.

[MORE: Bears in no rush to play Kevin White during preseason]

There had been speculation that the city of Los Angeles would be granted the rights to host the 2016 event as a way to showcase the city for a possible relocation in 2017. Owners from all 32 NFL teams were in attendance on Tuesday at the owners meeting to discuss the future of a team possibly relocating to Los Angeles. The St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders all gave presentations.

However, the NFL announced that it will develop a selection process for determining landing spots for future Drafts with Chicago still being under consideration for 2017 and beyond.

"Fairly early on we realized the power of the Chicago experience and learned so much of the opportunity to raise it up next year, and really what we've set forth and what we're laying out from here forth is starting this fall that we're going to open up the process for bidding for the Draft," O'Reilly said. "We want all of our clubs to express interest and really as we look to 2017 and 2018 creating a more formal process around that and we'll provide more details on that as it starts to come to life. Chicago clearly will be a part of that process as well."

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the season, Bears fans!]

Some of the NFL's demands to the city of Chicago in 2015 included the use of the 3,900 Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University, street closures for nearly three weeks, police escorts for draft selections, indoor and outdoor space for NFL Draft parties and sponsors, an estimated $4 million of promotional signage and materials, and an option to keep the draft in Chicago in 2016 — which the league has exhausted. O'Reilly hinted on Tuesday that some of those same contractual demands will still be in place for 2016.

2016 will mark the 10th different year Chicago has hosted the draft, as the Windy City hosted the event in 1938, 1942-1944, 1951, 1962-1964 and 2015.

And Mayor Emanuel couldn't be more pleased to see the Draft return to Chicago.

"We had a helicopter on Saturday afternoon take a shot of the crowd and we had a firm photo back on his [Goodell's] desk Monday morning and said, 'I want you to see what a great American event looks like in a great American city like the city of Chicago.'"

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 "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

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.”