Bears

NFL’s beauty pageant convening in Indy

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NFL’s beauty pageant convening in Indy

The NFL doesn’t have a swimsuit competition but it comes pretty close this time of year when the annual Scouting Combine convenes this week in Indianapolis, the next phase in football player evaluations (after in-season scouting and bowl games) on the way to the draft in Chicago during the last weekend in April.

For the next week, teams’ extended staffs (coaches, scouts, general managers, player personnel execs, medical evaluators) will subject the more than 300 invited college players to a football beauty pageant, complete with drills and exams measuring those players on times in the 40-yard dash, cone drills, shuttle drills, some position-specific work and more, in addition to private interviews with teams back in the team’s hotel rooms.

(Beauty pageants don’t give a definitive read on how each contestant will work out as a life fit for someone, but it’s one element, right? No? Hopefully for their sakes, the players all have their prepared remarks ready for individual-team interviews, when the question of personal goals may come up and the right answer, of course, is, “World peace.”)

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An athletic-wear company will have players shrink-wrapped in logo’d shorts and shirts, which put that logo front and center every televised stride of every 40. By informal consensus, Cam Newton won the equivalent of his year’s swimsuit competition, looking just terrific in his Under Armour ensemble as he charmed the mass interview on his way to becoming the No. 1-overall pick in the 2011 draft. (Ron Rivera and the Carolina Panthers probably didn’t base their Newton pick on the shrink-wrap competition, but Newton DID look the part, for those who are into that sort of thing.)

“That sort of thing” has been the way less and less, however, ever since Mike Mamula stunned the Combine with his ’95 performance in the various competitions, prompting the Philadelphia Eagles to invest the No. 7 pick overall, apparently figuring that anybody who looks that good in the NFL’s equivalent of a decathlon had to be at least pretty good at pro football, which Mamula really wasn’t.

Rondel Melendez showed up in Indy in ’99 out of Eastern Kentucky and ran a 40 in 4.24 seconds, still tied for the fastest official time ever at the Combine. But all that speed didn’t impress the way Mamula’s results did several years earlier, earning Melendez just a seventh-round call that draft from the Atlanta Falcons. A knee injury that preseason didn’t do Melendez, already a marginal player, any favors, and he wound up the subject of a Deadspin “where are they now?” piece last February.

Of course, legend has it that Bo Jackson ran an unofficial, i.e. hand-timed, 4.12 in ’86 and Deion Sanders a hand-timed 4.19, and they weren’t bad.

[MORE: Bears still facing three major, difficult roster decisions]

The evaluation process typically includes players taking the Wonderlic test, the NFL’s attempt at some sort of intelligence testing, although ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio makes an excellent case for players declining that test for reasons of confidentiality. And frankly, if teams have a problem with a test not taken, then teams and the NFL need to do a better job of keeping the results in-house, particularly given that correlations between the Wonderlic and NFL success are questionable at best.

Increasing numbers of players have taken to attending special training operations designed to improve something as specific as time in the “40” or vertical jump, about the way high school students queue up for short-term courses to improve SAT or ACT scores.

Watching players settle into sprinter’s stances and blocks at the start line for the 40, you do almost wonder why the teams don’t ask players to run their 40’s out of three- or four-point stances, but again, at least it’s apples-to-apples if everybody does it.

The NFL doesn’t refer to the 40 track as the “runway.” But it could.

Kyle Long placed on Injured reserve

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USA Today

Kyle Long placed on Injured reserve

The Bears have guard Kyle Long on injured reserve due to hip injury. The Bears announced they moved DL Abdullah Anderson from the practice squad to the active roster. They have also signed TE Dax Robinson to the practice squad.

Long is a seven-year vet of the Bears and had played the first three games of the 2019 season. He sat on Week 4’s matchup against the Vikings due to his hip but came back to play against the Raiders in London in Week 5.

This news is tough to take considering the Bears offensive struggles this season and Long’s history with the team.

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Bears open as favorites in Week 7 vs. Saints

Bears open as favorites in Week 7 vs. Saints

The best thing that can happen to a team coming off of a disappointing loss like the Bears suffered in Week 5 to the Oakland Raiders is time away. Time to get back to basics, work on improving some deficiencies and, sometimes, just getting out of the national spotlight.

The Bears (3-2) will welcome the Saints (5-1) to Soldier Field in Week 7 in a game that would seem to favor New Orleans. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has excelled in relief of Drew Brees, who continues to rehab a thumb injury that will keep him out of Sunday's contest in Chicago. The Saints' defense has been fantastic as well and currently ranks 10th overall in yards allowed per game.

Chicago, meanwhile, is hoping for quarterback Mitch Trubisky's return from a left shoulder injury and is likely to be without Kyle Long (hip; injured reserve) and Akiem Hicks (elbow).

Logic would dictate that New Orleans will be a road favorite in this one, but that isn't the case. At least, not yet.

The Bears open the week as a 3.5-point favorite, which even when factoring the three-point edge home teams usually get still means the oddsmakers like Chicago to win the game outright.

Bears fans may still have the sour taste of defeat after the London letdown, but there are a lot of smart people in Las Vegas who obviously think the Bears have a chance (a really, really good chance) to win Sunday's NFC showdown.

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