Bears

The 'sitzkrieg' of the NFL non-offseason; Now what?

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The 'sitzkrieg' of the NFL non-offseason; Now what?

Monday, March 14, 2011
Posted: 11:00 a.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com
The NFL non-offseason enters the now what? phase.

I strongly dislike using war in any descriptions of sports situations; nobody ever said to a buddy in a combat foxhole, Man, this is just like football! But the best analogy this history major can come up with is sitzkrieg, the lull in the early months of WWII between the German blitz of Poland and the roll through France:

There was fighting; there will be more fighting. Right now, the whole thing is slouching toward the courts, although more than one source has suggested that the league wants to keep talking, you know the players do as well, and this may not wind up being decided by a judge. Well see.

The NFL and the-union-formerly-known-as-NFLPA did a lot of heavy lifting over the past month. They and mediator George Cohen werent able to close the deal. But it was very clear, if you could read through the sudden unseemly surge of Twitter spitting and claimscounterclaims as the two sides separated, that very real progress had been achieved in a lot of areas, other than that one big bag of cash that is still to be divvied up.

Check out Andrew Brandts excellent Q&A on Courtroom football on the National Football Post. Andrew was in management with the Green Bay Packers and runs through a lot of the questions swirling around all this.

And Sports Illustrateds Peter King goes into great depth with his latest Monday Morning Quarterback, with an overall note of optimism which is worth noting, coming from one of the most insightful pro football observers.

Not taking sides

The obvious question I get is: What do you think? Whos the problem?

Some are going to blast the greedy owners and others are going to trash the players and DeMaurice Smith. Im going to do neither, partly because I dont have a bias for against either side; because as a beat writer, I dont want to take sides and readers should believe that youre at least trying always to provide un-angled reporting; and because it doesnt matter.

But Ill offer two perspectives. One is that pointing fingers at the players and noting that they would have a hard time making comparable money on the outside were it not for football and the owners borders on insulting. Too many players dont walk away from the game; they limp away and on a first-name basis with their orthopedic surgeon.

The other is that for a lot longer than most of us can remember, the league has had the dominant financial high ground. As recently as the 1987 strike, the league was pretty much acknowledged as winning in their taffy pulls with the players. The owners may not have truly loved the 2006 deal that they opted out of but its difficult to see that as a bad deal; it just wasnt as good as they wouldve liked.

George Halas and that first group sitting around a Canton Hupmobile dealership, that was risk. If an owner doesnt make it with the business structure in place now, with virtually fixed guaranteed profit margin based on revenue stream and labor costs, they shouldn't be in the business anyway (see: Modell, Art).

Locally, in a good place

As far as the immediate impact on the Bears from the weekends goings on: not much. Offseason strength and conditioning programs for most teams dont usually start until about this time of March anyway, and the Bears give their players a longer time off than most; they would be starting toward the end of March.

I liked what I heard from Ted Phillips late last week. The Bears president, who has an elite-level sense of finance, sees a deal getting done. He wasnt tossing a cup of gasoline on the fire; he understands financial issues; and he runs one of those NFL franchises that may not have the small-market challenges but is one whose primary and only business is football. And Phillips and the Bears are not trimming staff or salaries. And theyll give refunds for tickets to any canceled games.

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.

Even without practicing, Allen Robinson is making a strong first impression with the Bears

Even without practicing, Allen Robinson is making a strong first impression with the Bears

Before Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey met with the media on Wednesday, Allen Robinson was curious what his position coach would say about him in public. 

“I just told him, I don’t know you,” Furrey quipped. “Who’s Allen Robinson?”

Furrey, of course, knows who Robinson is. But the point behind that joke is that Furrey, the Bears’ court wide receivers coach in four years, is still getting to know all of his receivers — let alone the one who hasn’t participated in a practice yet. For all the positivity that's easy to find around Halas Hall these days, the Bears' biggest offseason acquisition hasn't taken a rep yet. 

The good news for the Bears, of course, is that Robinson’s past play speaks for itself. He combined for 153 catches, 2,883 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016, and has been adamant he’ll return to that high level of play when he’s cleared to practice. The Bears were confident enough in Robinson’s medicals to guarantee him a little over $25 million in March, per Spotrac, about a month before they let Cameron Meredith sign with the New Orleans Saints largely over medical concerns (Meredith’s torn ACL was viewed as more serious than Robinson’s, in short). 

So the getting-to-know-you phase for Furrey and Robinson is largely taking place off the field in the meeting rooms of Halas Hall. 

“What a great young man,” Furrey said. “He’s come in here, obviously, rehabbing and doing all those things. But he’s alert, he comes to meetings, he’s ready to go. Really, really smart, you can tell that from the beginning and he’s a professional.”

What Furrey, in particular, likes about Robinson is that he’s an “alpha,” but is far more than all talk and no action. 

“And a lot of times that alpha talks a lot and they don’t really put it out there,” Furrey said. “He kind of has that alpha quietness to him. He understands what’s going on, you can look at him and you just kind of get that feel of he has a great understanding of how to approach this game at this level. Obviously he’s been highly successful for a couple years with some big numbers, but he doesn’t act like that. He’s still hungry, he wants to learn, and I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder, which is a good trait to have too. So we’re excited about that.”

The expectation all along has been for Robinson to be cleared to fully participate in training camp practices. So while coach Matt Nagy said last week Robinson is “ahead of the game,” that may not mean he takes part in the final round of OTAs next week or veteran minicamp the first week of June. 

But while Robinson can’t prove himself to his new coaches on the field yet, he’s doing the right things off the field to make a positive first impression. 

“He knows you gotta come in early, he knows you gotta be the last one to leave, he knows you gotta study,” Furrey said. “It doesn’t matter five years in, six years in, you gotta take notes. It doesn’t matter if you hear it 10 times, you just gotta keep taking notes. He’s been really good at that, and I’ve been really impressed with that. I’ve been able to get on the field with him a little bit, just kind of throwing some balls to him, and I didn’t know he was that big. But obviously we’re excited for it to happen out there.” 

Protection Issues: Bears O-line ranked 21st in NFL

Protection Issues: Bears O-line ranked 21st in NFL

Mitch Trubisky has been set up for a huge season in 2018 with all the firepower the Chicago Bears added on offense. Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton will give the second-year quarterback a variety of explosive targets to generate points in bunches.

None of the headline-grabbing moves will matter, however, if the offensive line doesn't do its job. 

According to Numberfire.com, the Bears' starting five could be the offense's Achilles heel. They were ranked 21st in the NFL and described as poor in pass protection.

Last year, the Bears ranked 26th in Sack NEP per drop back and 23rd in sack rate. These issues were especially apparent after Trubisky took over. In the games that [Kyle] Long played, their sack rate was 8.2%. It was actually 7.2% in the games that he missed. They struggled even when Long was healthy.

The Bears added Iowa's James Daniels in the second round of April's draft and he's expected to start at guard alongside Long. Cody Whitehair will resume his role as the starting center, with Charles Leno, Jr. and Bobby Massie at offensive tackle.

If Long comes back healthy and Daniels lives up to his draft cost, they should be a good run-blocking team from the jump. But Long has played just 18 games the past two years and is entering his age-30 season, so that's far from a lock. On top of that, the pass blocking was suspect last year and remains a mystery entering 2018.

The biggest addition to the offensive line is Harry Hiestand, the accomplished position coach who returns to Chicago after once serving in the same role under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. He most recently coached at Notre Dame and helped develop multiple first-round picks. He's going to have a huge impact.

The good news for the Bears is they weren't the lowest-ranked offensive line in the NFC North. The Vikings came in at No. 25. The Packers checked-in at No. 13, while the Lions were 16th.