Bears

Cubs-Sox: Samardzija wants the spotlight

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Cubs-Sox: Samardzija wants the spotlight

Toward the end of last season, Jeff Samardzija punctuated a conversation about his future by saying something like this: It would be a shame if I won all those games somewhere else.

Samardzija wasnt bragging or making threats. No one knew who exactly would be running the Cubs or picking up the option year on his contract.

Its just that Samardzija was finally starting to see results and felt like he was on the verge of another breakthrough. He knew the organization had invested a lot of capital in him, and not just the 10 million.

A Chicago guy who grew up in Indiana and starred at Notre Dame wasnt satisfied with being a pretty good reliever, or leaving with unfinished business.

After Theo Epstein took over at Clark and Addison, Samardzija met with the Cubs president and laid out a daily plan for how he would train in Arizona and transform himself into a frontline starter.

The entire city will see how far Samardzija has come on Friday at Wrigley Field, when he takes the ball against the White Sox for the start of a three-game crosstown series.

These are some of my favorite games of the year, Samardzija said. All of Chicago is watching. The place is packed. Its rowdy. Its the atmosphere you want to pitch in.

Samardzija loves the bright lights. Thats one reason why former general manager Jim Hendry and current scouting director Tim Wilken took him in the fifth round of the 2006 draft and gave him a big contract to give up his NFL ambitions.

Thats another reason why the Epstein administration thinks Samardzija and Matt Garza could be difference-makers if the Cubs one day get back to October.

During the offseason, Samardzija purposely moved to his place in Arizona, a distraction-free zone where he joked there is nothing to do except work out and play golf.

Samardzija has the long hair, the dude personality and the Notre Dame pedigree, but that image doesnt quite fit someone who grew up in a strong middle-class family that wasnt afraid of hard work.

I only got in there because I could play ball, not because I could pay tuition, he said with a laugh.

Samardzija has a great sense of humor, and hes clearly comfortable in his own skin. He gets it in a way other professional athletes around the city might not.

Samardzija mentioned how hes looking forward to pitching at Comiskey next month. In his mind, thats what it is.

Its still the Sears Tower, he said. Were stuck in our ways around here.

Samardzija was asked to name his favorite call from White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson.

There are a lot of good ones, Samardzija said. I always liked the ones where he just didnt talk for about an inning-and-a-half. And then all of a sudden hed be like The 2-2two outs Where are the other 15 pitches?

That was when DJ (Darrin Jackson) was there, too. I loved watching those guys. Theyre entertaining. Theyre fun to watch. Theyre fun to listen to. You could always get a good nap in during the Sox game.

Samardzija is a good talker, but he has the numbers to back it up now (4-1, 2.89 ERA, 45 strikeouts in 43.2 innings). After all those growing pains and trips back down to Triple-A Iowa, it wouldnt have felt quite right to put them up in another uniform.

Id rather win games here for the Cubs than anywhere else, Samardzija said. Its where I want to be. I only said that because I had some confidence that I was going to be here and that things were going to go the way I thought they were going to go.

So now its up to me to do what I can this year and next year and really prove to them that I belong here for a long time.

Under Center Podcast: What's the Bears' ceiling this year?

Under Center Podcast: What's the Bears' ceiling this year?

After the Bears' statement-making 25-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night, Laurence Holmes, Lance Briggs, Matt Forte and Alex Brown sat down to talk about how far they think the Bears can go this season. They also debate whether they trust kicker Cody Parkey after a 3-3 performance, and look ahead to Thanksgiving Day's matchup with the Lions. 

You can listen to the entire podcast right here, or in the embedded player below. 

Cody Parkey’s bounce-back game reveals something important about the 2018 Bears

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USA Today

Cody Parkey’s bounce-back game reveals something important about the 2018 Bears

 Cody Parkey, of course, noticed the two news helicopters hovering over Soldier Field Wednesday night. Maybe they added a little bit of pressure to his kicking practice session four days before he connected on all three of his field goal tries — including a game-clinching 48-yarder — in the Bears’ 25-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings. 
 
Or maybe the literal hovering over his every move didn’t affect him at all. 
 
“They just added a little extra wind for me,” Parkey quipped. 
 
Parkey’s confidence in himself didn’t waver after he missed four field goal attempts off an upright a week ago, even if the rest of Chicago might’s lost faith in their team’s kicker. While Matt Nagy framed his calling of a pair of two-point conversion attempts after the Bears’ two touchdowns Sunday as wanting to be aggressive (“we just felt like we had some good stuff down there in that area,” he said), perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence it came a week after his kicker missed two PATs. 
 
But Nagy’s confidence in Parkey was there when he called on him for that 48-yard field goal with a little under three minutes remaining in, at the time, an eight-point game. Had Parkey missed the kick, Minnesota would’ve taken over possession in optimal field position to drive downfield and tie the game. 
 
Instead, Parkey nailed the kick, and nearly the entire Bears’ sideline rushed onto the field to celebrate with him. 
 
“Parkey’s a dog, man,” outside linebacker Khalil Mack said. “Practice makes perfect. He’s a great kicker and I’m glad he got back to showing it.”
 
“You support your guys,” defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. “There’s always going to be people out there that are hard on you that can never do what you do. I think that’s he’s handled it very well. Very respectful, very humble about it, and he came out tonight and he played one of his best games for us.”
 
“We all believed in him in the locker room,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “There was never a doubt. That happens week to week in the NFL. But we just continue to come together closer as a team, support our guys, have each other's back. I'm happy for Cody. He was big time tonight. He definitely delivered for this team and put some points on the board when we needed them. They were crucial, and he did a heck of a job.”
 
And cornerback Prince Amukamara: “We knew that he had a tough time last week and was very hard on himself. For him to hit the first one and hit the last one, we knew how huge that was and he crushed it. He ended up breaking us down at the end right here. And that goes with what I've been saying all year, we have genuine love for each other and guys celebrate others' success."
 
That last point is important. The Bears have a certain positive spirit in their team, one instilled by Nagy that permeates every corner of Halas Hall. How often do you see so many players sprint off the sideline to celebrate with their kicker after he hits a field goal that isn’t a game-winner? 
 
“That was pretty cool,” Parkey said. “Obviously they saw me down last week and they picked me up. I think that’s just really special about this team and it shows how close we are.”