Bears

Head cases: Are field conditions affecting Bears?

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Head cases: Are field conditions affecting Bears?

Friday, Dec. 17, 2010
2:47 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The state of TCF Bank Field is looking more and more like there will be football in the great north on Monday night, according to individuals at the University of Minnesota.

But the issue of whether or not the Bears will play the Minnesota Vikings there now may be working in the Vikings favor, possibly to a significant degree.

The growing sense around the Bears is that this whole mess is in the heads of the players, and that is a potential disaster for a team possibly one victory away from a division championship. It may be in Vikings heads as well but the Bears are the ones with something to lose Monday night besides their health.

It isnt the number of media queries directed at players feelings on the situation. It isnt that players answer the questions; they do that, usually very accommodatingly. Its literally the length of the answers that is troubling.

Normally players, and anyone for that matter, are short and dismissive of non-issues or things not worth the attention. But the safety concern with this game and it is absolutely warranted is in peoples heads almost the way you might expect an opponent would want to be after delivering a blow intended to intimidate.

Man, its like a huge fight, a big ordeal all year about concussions and the NFL saying, What can we do to protect the players: Lets send them out to Minnesota on the potentially frozen surface, linebacker Lance Briggs said with more than a touch of disgust. Some things make me want to scratch my head all the time...

But whats the point of playing there if Adrian Peterson goes down with a career-ending injury? Hes a running back. Guys are going to be sliding all over the place. You never know. It could cost you in a bunch of different ways."

Hes not alone.

This is the year were cracking down on players safety and concussions and stuff like that, cornerback Charles Tillman added. You want to fine guys 75,000 for blows to the head, but are we going to play on this frozen field? I dont know. It doesnt really make too much sense to me.

Make no mistake: These are not soft people. They are some of the voices who have spoken about the realities of this sport, that it is rough and people do get hurt. But this situation is getting to even them.

I dont want people to get the wrong idea that guys dont want to play outdoors, said safety Chris Harris. We play outdoors here. We just played in 6 inches of snow Sunday. So guys dont have a problem playing outdoors dont have a problem with the weather, with the wind, with snow, with any of it.

We dont care about weather, we really dont. We can play in zero-degree weather; it doesnt hurt us. Its more the playing surface than the actual weather.

But the issue is safety. Thats a field thats not equipped Minnesotas not equipped for playing outdoor games. A stadium thats been under snow for a month in those temperatures its been minus-degree weather up there. The field will be icy. It just doesnt make for a safe environment.

And Harris, like Tillman, Briggs and others, goes on extensively about their concerns, without a whole lot of prodding from anyone. If the Bears are talking about this in the locker room and not as much about the Vikings, that is when a bad slip and fall could definitely occur.

I mean, Im talking about it now, and when we get out there obviously were going to check it out, Briggs said. But once the whistle blows, its time to play football.

That would be a good thing.

Stupid consideration

The one truly inane element filtering through various discussions of venue for the Bears-Vikings game is Minnesotas concern that playing in Detroit or Indianapolis or St. Louis renders this too much of a home game for the Bears. Those cities are too easy for Bears fans to reach and turn support into an advantage.

Suggestions ranging from Atlanta to New Orleans to wherever have taken this to a different level of stupid.

So the idea is that the Vikings, if they cant have the game in front their home fans would rather have it at a neutral site where no one in the host city cares about the two teams? If the NFL stands by and allows that logic to enter into the discussion, then it deserves even more criticism than it is getting already for letting the decision (and misguided work) on TCF Bank Stadium drag on and on and on.

The Bears already have been distracted and inconvenienced enough by a situation brought on through zero fault of their own. To make any decision based on keeping the game away from a huge pool of interested fans would simply make the situation just a little more ridiculous than it already is.

Backup QBs rule

While the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers turn to reserve quarterbacks out of necessity brought on by injuries, the Washington Redskins reportedly are benching starter Donovan McNabbb for the rest of the season and turning to Rex Grossman as their starter.

And just noodling here, but before the talk goes much further on how lucky the Bears are to be facing backup quarterbacks this season, its possibly worth remembering that Michael Vick was a backup coming into this season. So was Tom Brady in 2001. So was Brett Favre in 1992. So was Matt Cassel. So was Lou Gehrig.

Joe Webb probably isnt the next name to go on that list. But backups are dangerous because they know the value of opportunities when they arent handed to them.

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.

Charles Leno, Jr. on Harry Hiestand: 'He's getting us better'

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USA Today

Charles Leno, Jr. on Harry Hiestand: 'He's getting us better'

Chicago Bears left tackle Charle Leno, Jr. has outplayed expectations after joining the team as a seventh-round pick in 2014. General manager Ryan Pace rewarded Leno for his play with a four-year, $38 million extension last offseason, committing to the former Boise State product as the Bears' blindside protector for the immediate future.

Leno joined his teammates at the team's annual Bears Care Gala on Saturday and said new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand is going to make him and his linemates better.

"We love Harry, let's just get that out of the way," Leno told 670 the Score's Mark Grote. "Harry is a great coach. I saw what he did for guys that he coached in college and the guys that were before us here in Chicago. He's getting us better."

Hiestand's efforts at Notre Dame produced four first-round picks: Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley, Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey. He brings a no-nonsense coaching style back to Chicago, where he last served under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. 

STANKEVITZ: In Harry Hiestand, Matt Nagy hits a home run on his first swing at Bears' coaching staff

Leno enjoyed the best season of his career in 2017. His 80.4 grade from Pro Football Focus was the best of all Bears linemen and his highest overall mark over the last four years. He finished 15th among all tackles graded by PFF last season.

Regardless, Leno still has to impress his new coach just like every other offensive lineman on the roster. The Bears haven't added any competition for Leno, but his fate as the team's long-term answer at left tackle could be decided by Hiestand.

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

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USA Today Sports Images

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

Despite losing 34 of his 48 games as the Bears’ head coach, John Fox’s players generally liked him and were disappointed to see him fired on New Year’s Day. That’s not to say they were blindsided by it — losing leads to people losing their jobs, even if the culture at Halas Hall had changed for the better following the disastrous end of the Marc Trestman-Phil Emery era. 

It was with that backdrop that Matt Nagy was offered and accepted the position of Bears head coach a week after Fox’s firing. Four and a half months later, Nagy has seemingly made a strong first impression on his new team, with one reason standing out among many: He’s genuine in who he is and what he does.

“I would say Nagy can be stern, and he can be playful also,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “I think when you’re a first-year coach, you want to win (over) your guys, and you want to be firm, and he’s doing that. You can’t really tell he’s a rookie coach or whatever. I feel like he was born for this, and he’s doing a great job.”

Granted, no player is going to publicly blast their new boss — especially not before he’s even coached a game yet. But veteran players also aren’t oblivious to who can and cannot work out as a head coach, and there haven’t been any “damning with faint praise” types of comments that were more common five years ago at the beginning of the Trestman era.

Will this win Nagy any games come September? No. But consider this sort of like team chemistry: It won't win a team anything, but if a team doesn't have it, it can be costly. 

“He’s a cool coach, man,” linebacker Danny Trevathan — who played for Fox in both Denver and Chicago — said. “He’s always giving us little details and smiling but we know he’s a hard worker just like we are. He’s up there working just like we are. He’s always putting us in the right position and he takes care of us. On the back end, where I come from, you take care of coaches like that. You go out and make plays for those coaches.”

From an observational standpoint, Nagy comes across as genuinely excited not just to be a head coach, but the head coach of the Bears. Players respect that approach — he's not coming in acting like a hired gun, and he's shown through these OTAs and practices that he cares about them, even if they haven't spent much time together yet. And he's also not strutting into Halas Hall every day with an over-inflated ego based on his promotion. That resonates, too. 

“I like the way he came in,” Trevathan said. “He came in humble but he was hungry. He came anxious, moving around in the meetings. I like that. That gets me fired up. I feel like we’ve got a good leader up here in the head coach.”