Bears

Tim Jennings’ release guarantees all-new starting secondary for Bears

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Tim Jennings’ release guarantees all-new starting secondary for Bears

When the Bears started the 2014 season, the secondary was rated a strength, particularly at cornerback. Pro Bowl’ers Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman were starting, with Kyle Fuller, a first round draft pick, as the nickel back. In a defense that could have exactly zero players in the same spots they began last season in, the entire starting secondary is assured to be new, with Alan Ball moving into Jennings’ spot and Sherrick McManis standing by as the No. 3 and nickel corner.

Indeed, three of the current four starting defensive backs were not even Bears this time a year ago.

Whether anything stays that way, which it was to open the game against the Cincinnati Bengals with rookie Adrian Amos and veteran Antrel Rolle at safety, is of course not assured. But Amos has settled in next to Rolle, and Ball, an eight-year veteran out of Illinois who has played with Dallas, Houston and Jacksonville, with 44 career starts, was signed to a one-year contract worth $3 million for a reason.

[MORE BEARS: Lessons from Bears loss to Bengals, good or bad, impossible to sort out]

“My confidence is growing,” said Ball, who adds six inches of height at the position over Jennings’ 5-8. “I’m really getting a feel for what Vic [Fangio] is doing and how he’s calling the defense.

“I’m getting a feel for what the safeties are doing; we have new additions in Antrel and Adrian over there, and Kyle at cornerback. We’ve been rotating groups and rotating guys. You get that gel between the whole group.”

The issue for Ball has been health over his recent career. He was ensconced as a starter with Houston in 2012 and Jacksonville the past two seasons but missed 15 of 48 games over those three seasons with a foot injury (2012, five games), groin strain (2013, one) and season-ending biceps injury last year (nine games.

Ball, 30, had surgery on the foot last offseason and benefited from the down-time just recovering overall health.

[MORE BEARS: Surpassed by other cornerbacks, Tim Jennings cut by Bears]

“You know part of the off-season and the preseason is getting guys ready for the regular season,” said coach John Fox. “But he's got length, I think he's played at a high level, he's adapted to our system very well and he's produced since he's been here.”

Ball, a seventh-round draft pick of the Cowboys in 2007, has six career interceptions, all over the past five seasons, and 34 pass-defenses. He also was a member of playoff teams in Dallas and Houston.

For the Bears, more than the names and faces are changing. The shuffle of players and coaches means that a group identity has yet to be forged among players, and the kind of second-nature cohesion, anticipation and familiarity are works in progress

Not a problem, nor that unusual, to Ball’s thinking.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

“I think every year going in you want a new identity no matter where you are, no matter what guys you’ve got out there,” Ball said. “You’re always searching for a new identity. The team is not going to be the same from last year or the year before. Going forward, every step we take, we’re a new group no matter who’s out there. You’ve got to find your identity.

“So going forward we want to create our identity and step on the field week one and establish who we are. We’re doing it in practice piece by piece as a defense. But until we get out there week one and really do what we gotta do, that’s when you know who you are.”

Is Matt Forte pushing for a coaching job with the Bears?

Is Matt Forte pushing for a coaching job with the Bears?

Is former Bears star Matt Forte going to be the team’s new running backs coach?

For now, that’s Charles London’s job, who was hired to head coach Matt Nagy’s staff earlier this year.

But on Tuesday night, Forte tweeted that he would like a coaching spot with Chicago sometime in the near future.

Serving as evidence, the now-retired running back responded to a tweet from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, which announced the Broncos’ hiring of former linebacker Demarcus Ware as a “pass-rush consultant on a part-time basis.” Forte tweeted at the Bears, saying that he is “available” to take on a similar role to Ware’s new Denver gig.

Forte’s tweet was relatively cryptic, and he never specified exactly what type of job he would want with the Bears. After finishing up a storied career this past season and solidifying his name as a Bears legend, Forte has proven that he could easily coach young running backs or even wide receivers at some point.

But isn’t this all just a joke?

Forte silenced the doubters by tweeting “I wasn’t joking” as a response to an article saying that his desire for a new occupation with the Bears was simply a gag. The former workhorse was also intrigued by a fan’s tweet asking “Coach Forte??”

The mere thought of having Forte back in Chicago with the Bears’ coaching staff sent fans on Twitter into a frenzy. In April, Forte came back to Halas Hall to ink his name on a one-day contract, successfully allowing him to retire as a Bear. Now, Forte wants a lengthier stay in the Windy City.

Ware’s role with Denver is not extensive by any means and, according to Schefter, he will work a pretty scattered schedule with Broncos players. What Forte’s role would look like with the Bears is completely unknown if his plan to coach becomes a reality.

Forte has the running back credentials to take on a coaching position. In eight seasons with the Bears, Forte racked up a combined 8,602 rushing yards, second to only the great Walter Payton. Forte’s 4,116 receiving yards as a running back, 12,718 yards from scrimmage, 24 games with 100 rushing yards and 25 games with at least 150 yards from scrimmage also ranks second behind Payton.

Maybe this will be a new development in Chicago’s offseason plans, but there is no real talk of bringing one of the team’s all-time leading rushers back to the team as of right now.

Last month, NBC Sports Chicago announced Forte will be joining the network as a Bears game day studio analyst for the upcoming 2018 NFL season. And we're not joking about that.

Prince Amukamara and CDW surprise teens at MSI event

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USA TODAY

Prince Amukamara and CDW surprise teens at MSI event

This past Saturday, Prince Amukamara provided a great surprise when he showed up during a graduation ceremony to honor high school seniors who had been a part of the Museum of Science and Industry's (MSI) "Welcome to Science" initiative.

Students listened to brief speeches from CDW Vice President of Networking, Digital Workspace and Security Solutions, Bob Rossi, a number of Bears employees and Amukamara. 

Students engaged in open discussions on how they can further their dreams with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  And through a donation from CDW’s Tech Fore! Kids program, students got perhaps the biggest surpise of all, as they were provided new laptops. CDW continues to help enable the MSI the opportunity to work with youth and further their interaction with STEM.

CDW Tech Fore! has done previous work with Chicago Bulls College Prep, and other schools and Boys and Girls clubs over time. The MSI's program looks to provide a diverse array of teens the chance to dive deeper into what it takes to have a career in science. On top of this, students are able to collect service leearning hours while simultaneously furthering their leadership and public speaking skills.