Next challenge for Bears focus: Christmas goings-on

Next challenge for Bears focus: Christmas goings-on

With just two more shopping days til Christmas (they play Washington on Saturday so they’re going to be a little busy most of Christmas Eve) and holiday cheer everywhere, might any of the Bears be more inclined to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” instead of more film on the Redskins?

Ideally they can multi-task well enough to do both. But football players have families, kids, relatives in town, presents to buy and all the rest, and they would not be the first dads/husbands/sons/friends to have events outside of work encroach on their concentration on the job.

Individual breakdowns notwithstanding, the Bears have maintained concentration well enough to play toe-to-toe with a succession of playoff-grade opponents (Green Bay, Detroit, Tennessee, New York Giants). Even as their season has disintegrated, they have not, and it is unlikely that the Christmas season will do what the disappointments of close losses could not.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

“It’s important to stay focused regardless, whether it’s Thanksgiving,” said coach John Fox. “Guys have tragedies in families; there’s all kinds of things that can take the focus away of your football team. I think the fact that we’re playing Christmas Eve day — Christmas is the next day — most people are going to be with their families.

“Just like playing at home, you’re with your family after the game. So I think these guys do the game for a lot of different reasons. Some of them are families, spending time with family. It’s a lot easier to see smiles after wins than losses.” 

So the Bears won’t be swapping eggnog recipes or Toys ‘R Us sales tips in their huddles Saturday while Washington is waiting.

“They could be in their free time, I’m not sure,” Fox said, smiling. “But no, they’ve been pretty good all year long as far as focus.” 

Here's what the 2020 NFL draft TV broadcast could look like

Here's what the 2020 NFL draft TV broadcast could look like

The 2020 NFL draft will take place as scheduled on April 23-25 despite the nationwide social distancing campaign enacted to combat the outbreak of COVID-19. 

The NFL canceled the three-day party in Las Vegas and the league won't hold any public events to celebrate the players or the teams, but the show will go on in a much different way.

NBC Sports' Peter King outlined how this year's draft will likely be broadcast, which will be a familiar sight for anyone who's working from home or paying attention to how television has adapted to these challenging times:

If you’ve done Zoom video conferencing, or you’ve watched recent nightly newscasts, maybe you’ve seen eight or 10 people on the laptop screen or the TV all ready to be called on by a host. Imagine the same thing on draft night. The NFL will send out about 50 portable camera kits with microphones to top prospects and college coaches, with better-than-FaceTime quality, so NFL draft coverage will be able to bring in, say, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow from the family home outside Athens, Ohio, when/if he’s the first pick of the Bengals. Then Burrow will be able to do his media availability with the Cincinnati press, and whatever other one-on-ones he chooses to do.

It'll be a stark contrast to how the NFL draft is traditionally conducted. From the days of Radio City Music Hall in New York City to the traveling roadshow it's become in recent years, the league has done a remarkable job turning its biggest offseason event into arguably the biggest event in the sport aside from the Super Bowl.

Diehard fans of the draft will enjoy the broadcast regardless of whatever form it takes. Whether it's a red-carpet event or a zoom-style meeting, the teams will still pick their players and fans will celebrate (or loathe) the selections. The casual observer may not be as impressed, however. The emotions of draft day, especially when players realize their life-long dream by walking across the stage and bearhugging Goodell, will be lost. At least, there will be less of it.

Sure, watching prospects celebrate with their families in the comfort of their own home will be fun, but the cloud of what really matters -- the coronavirus and the devastation its causing across the globe -- will be unavoidable. The setting of this year's draft will be a constant reminder of it, too.

But the show must go on (apparently). And if the NFL has proven anything over the years, it's that the league knows how to take advantage of every opportunity it has to captivate an audience. 

Maybe, just maybe, the best thing the draft has to offer fans this year is a much-needed distraction from the stress and anxiety of the real world. Don't bet against the NFL accomplishing that goal. 

Bears hold pre-draft meeting with SIU safety Jeremy Chinn

Bears hold pre-draft meeting with SIU safety Jeremy Chinn

The Bears have a need at safety alongside Eddie Jackson, and while Deon Bush was re-signed to a one-year deal to presumably replace Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the starting lineup, GM Ryan Pace may decide the 2020 NFL draft offers a better option.

One safety who fits the profile as a physical in-the-box defender is Southern Illinois' Jeremy Chinn. The 6-foot-3, 221-pounder wowed at the NFL Combine when he ran a 4.45 40-yard dash and lept 41 inches in the vertical jump, testing scores that confirmed the elite athleticism he displays on tape.

The Bears took notice and their interest in the small-school standout is real. Chicago held a pre-draft meeting with Chinn, albeit via Facetime, in an effort to learn more about the local prospect, a source told NBC Sports Chicago.

Chinn finished 2019 with 71 tackles, 2.5 for loss,  four interceptions and three pass breakups. He was a do-it-all defender who's been comp'd as a discount version of Clemson's Isaiah Simmons.

Unlike Simmons, there's a chance Chinn will be available when the Bears are on the clock at No. 43 overall. If he is, expect Pace, who has an affinity for small-school players, to pull the trigger.