Bears

Gould: Rule change may not reduce returns

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Gould: Rule change may not reduce returns

Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Posted: 8:56 a.m. Updated: 10:33 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Robbie Gould likes some of the proposed rules changes affecting the kickoff element of the game as theyre being discussed at the current NFL owners meetings. Cutting down on wedges of any kind, for instance, should reduce helmet-to-helmet collisions and the concussions that come along with those.

But the Bears kicker had an amusing angle, a couple actually, to the prospect of moving kickoffs from the 30-yard line out to the 35. That may not necessarily reduce the number of returns at all for some teams.

WORD ON THE STREET: Bears against kickoff rule changes

For one thing, itll help more older kickers keep their jobs longer, Robbie observed. The kick that was going to the goal line is now going five yards deep. And I think the wedge rules are great ideas as far as keeping guys healthier.

Aaah, but theres a catch. Because kicks are coming from the 35 now, the norm will be blasting away and drilling the ball out of the back of the end zone. Hang time? Whats that?

Hammering balls deeper means lower kicks that will be getting to the likes of Devin Hester, Ted Ginn and Percy Harvin faster than ever, so guys will be getting the ball faster before the coverage teams can get there, Robbie envisioned. More teams may take the chance and bring the ball out of the end zone.

Its a great point. Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub has given Hester license to return punts from just about anywhere if the ball has gotten there well ahead of the opposing coverage team. Does anyone think Hester (or Danieal Manning) isnt going to be looking at every line-drive kickoff as a return opp, particularly with a receiving unit absolutely dedicated to making history every time a team is misguided enough to put the ball in Hesters hands?

Not surprisingly, the rules changes have a touch of the bittersweet for Robbie, the player rep who is now a player advocate since the players decertified as a union and are now a trade association.

Theyre really focusing on one play that affects player safety, he notes. And if one play makes all that much difference, how it it that the NFL in previous negotiations wanted an extra two games without offering extra pay and health benefits?

Tough sell

Also not surprisingly, there is some pushback from coaches in particular on the proposed rules changes for kickoffs. Colleague Tom Curran of CSNNE.com caught up with Bill Belichick and Coach Hoodie represents a powerful voice on any NFL issue.

Sports Illustrateds Don Banks on SI.com notes that coaches (and others) cite kickoff returns for touchdowns as being among the games most exciting plays. No argument there. But Rich McKay on the Competition Committee isnt buying that as a reason to leave the high-risk play untouched when there are ways to increase player safety. And Don is spot on when he notes that player safety is a hot button right now, making it difficult to go against it, at least publicly.

Matters will be coming to a vote sooner rather than later, and dont rule out a rule out or two.

Miller not in favor of changes

Comcast SportsNet colleague and former Bears quarterback Jim Miller took his share of NFL hits during a solid career that included getting the Bears to the 2001 playoffs. But he is not in favor of the changes in kickoff rules on any basis of injury reduction.

Who wants to see a touchback? Jim tweeted on @15miller today. May as well eliminate the KO completely if youre kicking from the 35 yard line.

Jim notes that Bears President Ted Phillips is on record stating hell vote against the changes, and Jim cites a possible-simple unstated reason: because Hester is dynamic and makes the organization a lot of money. Ouch. But Jims general take is that owners will most likely vote for it because now it is one less player they will have to pay.

And not to over-simplify here, but Jim gets it. As Deep Throat once told Bob Woodward: Follow the money. Justfollow the money.

Clarification needed

Gould wants some clarity with respect to who is dealing with the NFL at this point. Its not the players association as a union; it is a trade association and the Bears kicker is rankled at figures on the owners side of the table continuing to refer to the players as a union.

On his Twitter account @RobbieGould09 on Tuesday, Robbie is emphatic: Can I have everyone retweet the words TRADE ASSOCIATION so maybe the owners and Jeff Pash can stop lying during every interview.

Not to take a side here but this shouldnt be trivialized. If the players respond to comments addressing them as a union, that may contribute to the impression that the move to de-certify is merely a procedural ploy, which is neither the case nor what players would like courts to be thinking as judges deliberate on injunctions and other matters in the situation.

Check it out

CSNNE.com Insider Tom Curran will visit with Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk Live. Mike's show starts at 11 a.m. Always good chats with the newsmakers.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

First and Final Thoughts: Bears in good position to go 2-1

First and Final Thoughts: Bears in good position to go 2-1

Welcome into First and Final Thoughts, one of our weekly columns with a title that's a little too on the nose. Here we'll have Insider J.J Stankevitz, Producer Cam Ellis, and a rotating cast of NBC Sports Chicago's Bears team give some insight into what's on their minds between games.

Final Thought on Week 2

J.J. StankevitzWhat we saw Monday night is probably a blueprint for how the Bears can be successful in 2018: A developing quarterback makes some mistakes but leads a couple of scoring drives, which provides enough points to support an elite defense. The Bears' defense proved that, really, all it needed was to put forth four quarters of effort to solve the issues it seemed to create in that Week 1 loss to Green Bay. The offense is larger question, and it was at least a little concerning that Seattle's defense felt like it was best to sell out to stop the run -- the preferred strategy of defenses against the Bears' 2017 offense. The Bears needed more help from their offensive line and Jordan Howard, yes, but more than anything they needed -- and will need -- Mitch Trubisky to be better going forward to make sure teams can't drop safeties down and stack the box to stop the run. 

Cam Ellis: Of the three big offensive additions (Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton) that the Bears made this year, Robinson's looked the best so far. He's clearly Trubisky's go-to guy; he only has one less target (21) than Gabriel and Burton combined (22). He hasn't found the end zone yet, but his current 66.7 Catch% would be the highest of his career by a significant margain. He was even Pro Football Focus' highest-rated Bears offensive player in Week 2. Frustratingly enough, he's only averaging 10.3 yards per reception, which wasn't exactly the idea when they brought him in. It's hard to blame him for tha, however, when the Bears rank 30th in the NFL in yards per pass attempt (4.9). 

First Thought on Week 3

J.J. Stankevitz: Goodness, Arizona is bad. In two games, they've managed only 19 first downs, 350 total yards of offense and four third down conversions in 20 attempts. Sam Bradford is averaging four yards per attempt. Meanwhile, the Cardinals' defense is allowing 6.1 yards per play, including an average of 8.8 yards per passing attempt. But here's maybe the most wild stat about the Cardinals: They haven't attempted a field goal -- not even a PAT -- in two games. Just about every team in the NFL matches up well against Arizona (well, maybe besides the Bills), so the Bears will head to the desert with an excellent opportunity to move to 2-1. But then again, last year, the Bears were 0-2 and coming off a horrible Week 2 loss...and then beat a playoff team in the Pittsburgh Steelers behind Mike Glennon (who's now Arizona's backup). Anything can happen in the NFL.

Cam Ellis: If the Bears want to compete for an NFC North title, they should be able to go out and win games like these, presumably comfortably. (Though Arizona getting 6 points at home seems a bit dramatic) The Cardinals are very not good, and like J.J. said, NFL games can be coin flips. The Bears went 2-6 away from Soldier Field last year, and that obviously won't cut it with this year's roster. The Bears' last quarter of the season features the Rams and Packers at home before road games at San Fransisco and Minnesota, so taking care of favorable matchups like this week (and Nov. 4's in Buffalo) are critical. 

Bears are nearly touchdown favorites over Cardinals for Week 3

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USA TODAY

Bears are nearly touchdown favorites over Cardinals for Week 3

After facing a pair of elite quarterbacks to start the season, the Bears get a little bit of an easier matchup with the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3.

Sam Bradford has struggled under center so far this season, and fans have been clamoring for rookie quarterback Josh Rosen to get the start. The team could possible turn to Mike Glennon too.

The 0-2 Cardinals are among the worst teams in the NFL thus far, and so Las Vegas sportsbooks see the Bears earning win No. 2 on Sunday.

Chicago favored by six points against Arizona, according to Vegas Insider, and that might even be selling them short.

The Cardinals have scored six points total in two games this season, with their one touchdown coming in Week 1 against Washington. They were shutout last week against the Los Angeles Rams.

Las Vegas is expecting a low-scoring game regardless, with the lowest over/under (38 points) set for any game this week.

If Bradford can right the ship, the Arizona can give the Bears a run for their money this week, but if not, a QB change could be in store for the Cardinals.