Why the Bears stayed quiet at the NFL trade deadline


Why the Bears stayed quiet at the NFL trade deadline

On this date in NFL history…nothing happened. At least not involving the Bears.

The 2015 NFL trading deadline passed Tuesday afternoon as most of those deadlines do, with the Bears and pretty much the rest of the NFL doing nothing beyond the de rigeur phone calls that happen every year around this time and the days leading up to the draft.

General manager Ryan Pace was reachable by cell or office phone if anyone had an actionable interest in players on his roster. Having traded Jared Allen to Carolina and Jonathan Bostic to New England earlier this season, Pace’s willingness to deal already was established before Tuesday.

Nothing happened, for obvious reasons.

[MORE: Phil Simms: Jay Cutler will be Bears QB in 2016 'for many reasons']

Rush-linebackers Lamarr Houston and Willie Young were subjects of what-if scenarios, given their lack of playing time and apparent non-fit in the Bears’ defensive plans, present or future. But both are coming back from 2014 season-ending leg injuries and neither offered the kind of instant impact sought by contending teams at the midpoint of this season, the kind that Allen offered the 7-0 Panthers.

More to the point, with the Bears quite possibly prepared to cut ties with the two Phil Emery acquisitions sometime after this season, no reason existed for a team to deal away draft capital for limited-impact players who likely will be available next offseason anyway.

The 49ers have benched but not unloaded quarterback Colin Kaepernick, The Bears are expected to be in the market for a No. 2 quarterback for next season but the presumption around the league is that the 49ers will jettison Kaepernick next offseason so why give up something now for someone who’ll be on the street at some point?

[NBC SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

If there was a surprise, in this case very slight, it was not that running back Matt Forte wasn’t a trade target before his knee injury Sunday, but rather that tight end Martellus Bennett was not dealt to a contending team.

Bennett sought a contract upgrade last offseason, impact tight ends are at a premium (Denver trading with San Francisco to acquire Vernon Davis). The Bears may face another holdout by Bennett next offseason but he is a valued offensive commodity in multiple systems, and the Bears do not plan to be 2-5 this time next season, so they were open to but not soliciting offers for their 2014 Pro Bowl tight end.

Pernell McPhee? Kyle Long? Jay Cutler? For Pace and the Bears to have dealt away potential elite players at their positions – the paucity of top quarterbacks makes Cutler “elite” relatively – would have been to be willing to part with linchpin players a team can win because of, not simply win with.

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

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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.”