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."

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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.

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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."

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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.'"

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

Chris Emma, Matt Zahn and Gabe Ramirez join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh joins the panel to discuss the Bulls’ terrible defensive performance as well as Zach LaVine’s impressive season debut.

11:35- Khalil Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Can the Bears pull off the upset against Tom Brady?

23:50- NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran joins Kap to talk about how New England views the Bears and discuss how Matt Nagy’s team can exploit the Patriots’ weaknesses.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.


Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears in line to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack participated in the Bears’ final practice of the week on Friday, clearing the way for the edge rusher to play Sunday against the New England Patriots. 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier Friday that the Bears expected Mack, who hasn’t missed a game in his career, to play after suffering an ankle injury early in Week 6’s 31-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Mack is officially questionable for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. 

Mack had little interest in discussing his ankle with the media on Friday, passing on answering questions about his readiness for New England. Coach Matt Nagy, though, said he thought Mack “looked pretty good” during practice on Friday. 

Mack didn’t record a sack against Miami and was held to just one pressure, per Pro Football Focus. The Dolphins’ gameplan was to commit plenty of resources to stopping Mack, but he wasn’t effective even when he had one-on-one pass rushing opportunities as the game went on. 

“He was (affected),” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I can't put a percentage on it, but he definitely was.”

Having Mack available — even if he’s not full strength — will be critical for the Bears’ defense to have a chance at keeping Tom Brady from lighting up the scoreboard. The key for the Bears will be to generate pressure on the 41-year-old quarterback without blitzing, which is something Fangio’s defense was successful at prior to Sunday’s wacky loss to the Dolphins. 

Brady’s passer rating is 138.4 when he’s blitzed, per Pro Football Focus, while when under pressure his rating is 87.2. That’s still pretty good, but it’s worth noting that all of the six interceptions he’s thrown this year have come when he hasn’t been blitzed. And only one of the eight sacks he’s taken has come when he’s been blitzed. 

The point being: If the Bears feel like they have to start blitzing to generate pressure, they can expect Brady to pick them apart.  

“You could say all of that but ultimately (Brady’s) a gamer,” Mack said. “He’s going to take those hits, and you gotta be able to deliver them but also have coverage over the top. It’s going to be real important for us.” 

The good news for the Bears, perhaps, is that New England’s tackles have struggled at times this year. Left tackle Trent Brown has allowed 17 pressures in 234 pass blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus (about one in every 14 snaps). And starting right tackle Marcus Cannon is out with a concussion, giving way for backup La’Adrian Waddle, who’s allowed eight pressures in 78 pass blocking snaps (about one in every 10). 

So the opportunities will be there for Mack, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and the Bears’ pass rush to affect Brady on Sunday.

A bigger injury concern?

While cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) was a full participant in Friday’s practice and will play Sunday, slot corner Bryce Callahan suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s practice and did not participate Friday. He’s officially questionable for Sunday. 

Callahan “did his ankle,” Nagy said, toward the end of Thursday’s practice, and he felt worse as the day went on. Nagy characterized Callahan’s absence from Friday’s practice as “precautionary.”

Callahan’s availability may be more of a pressing concern than Mack’s, given how well the Patriots’ offense has played since slot receiver Julian Edelman returned from a four-game suspension to begin the season. While his numbers aren’t eye-popping (11 catches on 16 targets, 111 yards, 1 TD), New England’s offense has scored 38 and 43 points in his two games back. 

“Brady has always had a guy in the slot that he’s comfortable with; whether it be (Wes) Welker, (Danny) Amendola or Edelman,” Fangio said. “It’s a big part of their offense. They haven’t missed a beat, but I really think it’s helped their offense and played a big part in them basically averaging 40 points in the last three weeks. I really appreciate and respect how good of a player he is and has been.”

If Callahan isn’t available, Sherrick McManis could be the next man up at slot corner.