Bears

Jordan Howard wants to lead Bears... and lead the league

Jordan Howard wants to lead Bears... and lead the league

So Jordan Howard finished second in the NFL in rushing in his rookie season, despite just a dozen carries in the first three games. The fifth-round pick joined the man who beat him out for the rushing title, Ezekiel Elliott, as one of just five rookies in history to average five or more yards per carry on over 250 carries. And he set the Bears' rookie rushing record with his 1,313 yards while becoming just the fourth in franchise history to rush for that many yards in a season.

Sounds pretty hard to top, like we might be set up for the dreaded sophomore slump.

But...

"Things are a lot different this year because I know what to expect," Howard said during the team's minicamp two weeks ago. "I know all the plays and things like that. I’m not out there thinking, so I can just play free and fast.

"I definitely feel like a veteran 'cause I know what to expect and can help the young guys on the plays that they're not understanding. I’m just more comfortable and want to be a leader."

One of the other things we learned about Howard last year is he's low-key, a man of few words. So the Indiana product by way of UAB will make his points verbally when needed, but his actions will speak louder.

"He was a rookie a year ago and didn't even go in trying to be a leader, telling a five-year guy what was up," said head coach John Fox. "I think with time, and obviously with production like he had, I think it's a role he can fall in to. We're in a performance-based business and even in that locker room, what they do on Sundays gives them some credibility."

One of the concerns about Howard coming out of college was durability, but he answered the bell once he became the starter in week four against Detroit. And he probably wasn't used nearly as much as he should have. The good news about that is he was subject to less wear and tear, averaging just 18 carries per game from that Lions game on.

But besides taking more of a leadership role, Howard wanted to work on his speed without sacrificing the strong base that, paired with keen vision and work by the offensive line, allowed him to hit holes quickly and charge toward the second level of opposing defenses.

"Just improving on the little things – my conditioning, my weight, catching passes. And looking for ways to finish runs better," says Howard. "I feel like I’m in much better shape than I was at this time last year, a little more toned-up."

"It's just training," said Fox. "When you get to that it's more like track speed than football speed and I think he proved pretty worthy of that a year ago as a rookie. Y'know we all can improve on things, and that's the expectation. He's trained hard.

"This time of year last year he wasn’t even practicing," Fox remembered. "I like where we are, we’ve brought in more competition, and he’s better for it. He’s kind of gotten used to an NFL season, he’s come back ready to roll, but he still has work to do before we get to training camp."  

Oh, and the 22-year-old has a couple of other goals he didn't mind sharing, besides being a leader and getting a little faster.

"First off, make the playoffs. Be the leading rusher, and just help the team in any way I can and stay consistent."

Chicago native Rob Ninkovich details his snowball fights with Bill Belichick

Chicago native Rob Ninkovich details his snowball fights with Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick apparently loves a good snowball fight? 

The surprisingly-human fact about the NFL's most robotic head coach comes courtesy of Rob Ninkovich, who played in New England for eight seasons, winning two Super Bowls. On the latest episode of NBC Sports' Sports Uncovered podcast, Ninkovich lays out the time he found himself taking cover from Bill's lobs:

So I’m walking out after the game, walking to my truck. All of a sudden, a snowball comes flying in, and I’m like, ‘Who the heck is throwing snowballs?’ and it was Bill throwing snowballs at guys. It was just kind of like a fun moment where you were like, ‘He’s not so bad ... he’s not so bad’    

(So this was clearly after a win, right?) 

Ninkovich, along with others like Doug Flutie, Rodney Harrison, and Charlie Weiss, helped peel back the layers and provide a look into Bill Belichick that most people don't get to see. You can listen to the entire conversation right here, or in the embedded player below: 

Under Center Podcast: Bears haven't talked extension with Allen Robinson

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Bears haven't talked extension with Allen Robinson

JJ Stankevitz, Laurence Holmes and Cam Ellis discuss the Bears not talking to Allen Robinson about an extension and what that could mean for him and the team. Later, the crew discusses other deals that were made around the league, the stacked free agent running back class that Tarik Cohen finds himself in, and Laurence tells the story of finding a peacock and a chicken in his backyard.

(1:55) - Will 2020 be A-Rob's last in Chicago?

(7:10) - With no preseason, which QB (Nick Foles or Mitch Trubisky) will win the starting job?

(13:00) - Will the NFL even have a season this year?

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Bears news and analysis.

(20:00) - The 2021 running back free agent class isn't good for Tarik Cohen

(30:00) - Laurence's encounter with a peacock and chicken

Listen here or below.

Under Center Podcast

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