Bears

Kickoff changes would reflect reversal of trend

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Kickoff changes would reflect reversal of trend

Friday, March 18, 2011
Posted: 10:07 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

If youd like a vague feel-good about the prospects for a 2011 NFL season, heres one ( a little one): The NFL is proceeding with rules changes just like they always do this time of year when there is a season looming.

This is the normal time that rules would be passed, Mike Pereira said Friday on The Dan Patrick Show on Comcast SportsNet. NFL owners have got to look as business-as-usual going forward.

Pereira, formerly the NFLs vice president of officiating and now one of the top rules analysts in the game in his post with FOXSports, does think the rules affecting kickoffs and kickoff returns in particular will pass. But they do reflect a near-reversal of a previous trend for the league.

Kickoffs, once moved back to the 30-yard line to increase the number of returns, now would be moved to the 35 to cut down on them. Touchbacks would be brought out to the 25-yard line instead of the 20, providing a five-yard incentive to take a knee.

And coverage teams will be limited to a five-yard running start, which might be the biggest change in terms of physics. Force is equal to mass times speed-squared, so if you trim some speed at the front end, you reduce the potential impact at the other end. Throw in a total ban on wedge-blocking of any kind and you have at least theoretically dialed down the chance for injuries on coverage teams, which in fact do suffer more of them than the receiving team.

Its got to be clearly for safety, Mike said. This is a complete shift for the competition committee. Now they are clearly going to take the returnout of the game.

Dan asked Mike if in fact you can make kickoffs safe. You cant make it safe, Mike explained. You can slow it down.

The 25-yard-line provision seemed to Mike to be the one to watch. The average return of a kickoff is 22.5 yards, he said, so If you catch a ball in the end zone, guess what Youre going to take a knee and get the ball at the 25.

Mike cited players like Devin Hester, for whom the Bears gave a No. 2 draft choice (2006). And a valid question is how much teams will value returners now.

Mike suggested a very simple reason why he sees the measures passing when they come to a vote at the upcoming meetings in New Orleans. Owners traditionally do not vote against safety proposals, he said.

The Charles Johnson Rule, where a catch must be clearly completed to be a catch, will not be revised, although itd be nice to get the rules consistent with how everyone visualizes the game, Mike concluded.

Ooops

A pretty good day for the Moon Bracket, except for one huge setback. Youd think that a school that gave the Bears about 10 percent of their roster would be a little kinder to a Chicago guy but Vanderbilt took the pipe against Richmond, and I had the Commoduds all the way through to the Elite Eight. Ooooops.

But Butler took care of Old Dominion, which was nice, and Gonzaga handled St. Johns, which was very nice. So Ive got 15 of my final 16 still doing business but I do need Texas A&M to dispatch Notre Dame a round from now.

See the things you pay close attention to when theres no NFL to speak (or write) of some days?

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.

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 ChicagoBears.com. "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

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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.”