Bears

Welker, Woodhead proving stereotypes wrong

Welker, Woodhead proving stereotypes wrong

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
Posted 5:50 PM
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead are spending a fair amount of time this season making NFL defensive backs look bad. They also are making more than a few so-called personnel experts look downright stupid.

They are living proof that living well is indeed the best revenge.

Welker is a shade under 5-9 and about 195 pounds, roughly the size of Carolina's Steve Smith or the Bears' Rashied Davis. He 'towers' over Woodhead, who lists at 5-7, 200 pounds.

Welker wasn't initially offered a scholarship, then was given one to Texas Tech when another player backed out of a commitment. Woodhead at least had the distinction of being given the first full athletic scholarship to Chardon State College (Neb.).

Welker was not invited to the NFL scouting combine. After all, he only ran a 4.65-sec. in the 40. Neither was drafted out of college. And for Welker, who has gone on to be named to Pro Bowls and All-Pro teams, those slights have mattered.

"I don't so much think about it anymore," Welker said. "Maybe earlier on but really I just try to do my best because I want our team to be successful, move the ball and do some things like that."

Welker in 2009 joined Brandon Marshall, Marvin Harrison, Herman Moore and Jerry Rice as the only receivers in NFL history to catch 100 passes in three straight seasons. He currently leads the Patriots with 72 catches (next closest is Deon Branch with 49) and 7 receiving touchdowns.

Woodhead this year has 355 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns and has caught 28 passes, one of those for a TD.

Both Welker and Woodhead have the unspoken satisfaction of shattering the cliched thinking that too often governs NFL personnel evaluators.

"I hope so," Welker said. "I think it's definitely something to look at and the main thing you can really do is look at the tape, see how a player plays and see what kind of production he's had. I think those things are the most key things to look at when you look at a player and not get enamored with the measurables when the Combine comes around."

Making an impression

Welker went to camp with San Diego in 2004 but was cut and went on to Miami. What he did there was deliver performances that specifically had to impress his future bosses.

In his rookie year Welker became just the second person in NFL history to return a kickoff and a punt, kick an extra point and a field goal, and make a tackle in the same game.

That was against none other than the New England Patriots. In Miami's second game against New England that season, Welker broke a punt return 71 yards to set up a touchdown.

The Patriots had a good memory. They traded second- and seventh-round draft choices for Welker in 2007, perhaps figuring it was a good way to avoid having to deal with him twice a year on special teams.

And he fit some of the key concepts that the Patriots look for in personnel, notions that have served them well this decade.

"There are a lot of things we look for and it varies from position to position but in the end each player has his own unique set of skills and strengths and weaknesses; we all do," said coach Bill Belichick.

"The question really is what is the total balance in production of that whole skill set and how can it be used in a particular system or particular position. That varies a lot from player to player and sometimes from year to year."

Busting stereotypes

Welker and Woodhead also have gotten shots at receiver and running back despite the reality in some minds that NFL personnel evaluators look askance at white players at their positions the way personnel thinking made it difficult for black players to earn fair chances at quarterback, center and some other positions.

Welker does not rule out the possibility of a white player being overlooked but as far as that being common, "I don't think so," he said. "I think if you can play, you can play. I think there are plenty of white guys at the receiver position. I wouldn't know how many exactly but at the same time I wouldn't say someone's overlooked or it can't happen. If you can play, they're going to find a spot for you."

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.

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the Patriots will be a tough test for the Bears, but it looks like they're going to receive a big break.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't travel with the Patriots to Chicago and is "highly unlikely" to play Sunday.

Avoiding Gronkowski, who is one of Brady's favorite targets, would be a huge break for the Bears' defense. In six games this season, the tight end has 26 receptions for 405 yards and a touchdown; in 14 games last season, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gronkowski has not officially been ruled out yet, though time is running out for the Patriots to make a decision.

Meanwhile, Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday despite dealing with an ankle injury. Between having Mack on the field and Gronkowski off of it, good news keeps coming for the Bears' defense.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

10-20codyparkey.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”