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Evaluating Peyton Manning's first Broncos practice

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Evaluating Peyton Manning's first Broncos practice

From Comcast SportsNet
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- His passes were hitting receivers in stride and right between the numbers, not skipping off the ground or whizzing behind their heads like so many of Tim Tebow's. The Denver Broncos got their first real taste of Peyton Manning on Monday with a spirited, fast-paced workout, the four-time MVP's first full practice in more than 16 months. "It felt good to be out there. It's been a while for me," Manning said. "It's been about a year and a-half since I've been in uniform, been in an organized practice. So, it felt good to be out there. And it will be a good film to study." Monday also was the first chance for the media to get a look at the progress Manning has made since a series of neck operations sidelined him all of last season and led to his release from the Indianapolis Colts. And Manning looked great, showing zip and accuracy on his passes, comfort under center, complete command of his offense and no ill effects from the nerve injury that caused weakness in his throwing arm. "Man, it feels good to know he's going to be on my side because what I saw today, he's going to give us some good work," star cornerback Champ Bailey said. "And we might not see a quarterback like that all year." Manning became the most prized free agent in NFL history following his release from the Colts after 14 seasons. His signing in Denver led to Tebow's trade to the New York Jets, despite a thrilling run to the playoffs guided by the younger QB. The Broncos and a handful of other suitors watched Manning throw during his whirlwind free agency tour in March, but before Monday, reporters had to rely on his receivers for updates on his progress. Manning had refused to talk about it. "Well, you guys got to see him today," tight end Jacob Tamme said. And he looked like the Manning of old. His throws, most of which were intermediate, were strong and on target. His only deep pass was true, too, hitting Matthew Willis in stride before being broken up by cornerback Tracy Porter at the goal line. Watching his pinpoint passes zip around Dove Valley, one never would have guessed he'd been forced to take a sabbatical and go under the scalpel multiple times since his last game, a wild-card playoff loss to the Jets in January of 2011. "Oh, no. Absolutely not," Bailey said. "You know, it's not live, but from what I see right now, the guy hasn't missed a beat." Coach John Fox said Manning's "getting better every day." And so are the Broncos, on account of Manning's presence. "He definitely raises all boats, that's for sure, and that's not just with the young players, (but also) the veterans," Fox said. "We're excited where that is and what's he's done to raise those boats." Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas and the other young receivers have all been refining their route-running so as not to endure Manning's famous wrath. "Well, I think they're on their way," Bailey said. "Obviously, I want to help them as much as possible, try to sharpen their routes up and things like that, but one thing about them is they get open a little bit, they're open a lot to him. That's one thing that's a big difference this year." Manning wouldn't gauge the progress he's made in his two months in Denver, first during private workouts at local high schools and then at the team's training facility. "It's hard to say. I try to get better every day, you know, that's my goal and I really need to use this time," he said. "I do think there's a difference when you are on the field in helmets going up against a defense. Up until now, we hadn't been able to go against a defense. So, this will be great work for me going against Champ Bailey and Von Miller and Elvis (Dumervil) and (Tracy) Porter, Drayton Florence. "We've got three great cover corners to work against. So, until now we've been kind of throwing passes versus air, and you can work on your timing with receivers but it's a great test to go against these corners." Manning is clearly more concerned about ironing out the wrinkles in his new offense than what fans seem to be harping on: his health status. "I've always believed you develop your timing for your passing game in the offseason, I don't think you can just show up in September and expect to be on the same page," Manning said. "So, what a great opportunity for these receivers going against these corners. I mean, if you can't get better going against some of these top cover corners, then it's just not meant to be. So, it's a great challenge for everybody." Monday marked one signpost. Up ahead is putting on the shoulder pads, training camp, taking that first hit in the preseason. "There's no question it's a different mentality for me in these OTAs than it has been in other years because of all the changes," Manning said. "But I look forward to the challenge and I just can't tell you how important these OTAs are. I think they're important for everybody. But when you're a new player, on a new team, certainly coming off an injury, I think they certainly take added importance, and I thought today was an excellent start." Notes: Among the no-shows for the voluntary workout was DT Ty Warren, whom the Broncos are hoping takes a pay cut, and LB D.J. Williams, whose DUI case ended in a mistrial Monday.

Blackhawks remember Dave Bolland for more than just '17 Seconds'

Blackhawks remember Dave Bolland for more than just '17 Seconds'

The Blackhawks are honoring one of their own on Friday, with Dave Bolland set to skate “One More Shift” with the organization. He will join the team on the ice during the anthem, and will be featured throughout the game commemorating his time in Chicago.

When you think of Bolland, the first thing that pops up into the minds of fans is his game-winning goal in Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. Or, better known as the second goal of "17 Seconds."

But his former teammates remember him for more than that.

"He was awesome," Patrick Kane said. "He was one of those guys who played a third-line role for like his whole time here and just really did well with it. I remember the line with him, [Martin] Havlat and [Andrew] Ladd really took off in 2009 and obviously [Dustin] Byfuglien, him and [Kris] Versteeg were a good line in 2010. But just the way he played, he got underneath the other teams skin, especially their star players. Wasn't afraid to chirp, wasn't afraid to get into the mix, especially with his size and the way he was built.

"But yeah, some great moments, some big goals, a lot of big shorthanded goals, you can obviously remember his 17 seconds was unbelievable as well, that's a goal I'm sure he'll never forget. We'll never forget that celebration too, so it's awesome he's getting honored."

Bolland, who earned the nickname "The Rat," is perhaps best known for the role he played in the Blackhawks' playoff series battles with the Vancouver Canucks. His line frequently drew the defensive matchups against Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and he's the one player who really knew how to throw both twins off their game at the same time.

"I think he's kind of like Shawzy," Jonathan Toews said. "He's one of those guys that fans here in Chicago really like. Aside from scoring goals and the plays that he made over the years in the playoffs, he was one of those guys that you loved having on your team that other teams hated. He found ways to chip away at their best players and get them off their game. He was good at a lot of little things like that, so he was a big part of those winning teams."

Andrew Shaw was teammates with Bolland for only two seasons, but they won a Stanley Cup together and Bolland was one of the best and knowing his role and perfecting it.

"One of the best at his job," Shaw said. "He played that shutdown centerman. I always thought he had the shortest shifts. His shift lengths were so short just cause he would play so much against top guys that he'd want to be so well-rested while he was out there. ... He was skilled enough to chip in offensively as well.

"That's the type of player he was. He'd play against the top guys, he'd shut them down, he'd be that little rat himself, just try to get them off their game as well as outworking them."

Bolland spent seven of his 10 NHL seasons in Chicago, where he registered 168 points (70 goals, 98 assists) in 332 games. He was drafted by the Blackhawks in the second round (No. 32 overall) of the 2004 NHL Draft.

Friday will mark the first night honoring the 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup Championship, which ended a 49-year drought in franchise history. The first 10,000 fans on Friday will receive a Marian Hossa bobblehead.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

Should the Chicago Bears trade for Melvin Gordon?

Should the Chicago Bears trade for Melvin Gordon?

The Chicago Bears running game has struggled mightily in 2019. In fact, it's been downright atrocious. Non-existent. Invisible. Nowhere to be found.

You get the point.

But a good running game has a lot of moving parts. Literally. Most notably, it requires a competent offensive line that consistently creates running lanes for the ball carrier, no matter who it is.

The Bears have a talented young running back on the roster in rookie David Montgomery. They invested a third-round pick on him and there's no indication the team has soured on his long-term projected despite a rough five-week span that's seen the former Iowa State star averaging just 3.3 yards per carry.

His struggles are more than just his own, however. He needs help from his offensive line. Most of his carries result in contact at or near the line of scrimmage, and for a first-year player who's still adjusting to life in the NFL, that just isn't a recipe for immediate success.

Here's the thing with the NFL, though: it's a 'what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league.' So if an upgrade can be had (at any position), the Bears have to at least consider it.

According to former Browns offensive lineman and current NFL Network analyst Joe Thomas, GM Ryan Pace should take a long and hard look at Chargers star, Melvin Gordon.

"I would love to see my Badger, Melvin Gordon, go to the Chicago Bears," Thomas said this week. "They're a team right now with a quarterback that's struggling a little bit. Matt Nagy would love to have a weapon like Melvin Gordon who's great not only running the football, but he's great catching the football out of the backfield.

"The type of weapon that he could be, the security blanket that he could be for Mitch Trubisky would be outstanding for this team. He would give Mitch Trubisky a lot of opportunities to get some easy completions, some throws out of the backfield to start boosting his confidence."

Not the worst idea in the world, but let's be honest: there's no way Pace is going to pull the trigger on a running back who's already expressed his desire to be paid among the elite players at his position despite production that simply doesn't put him on that level.

Sure, Gordon would be a fun and exciting addition for a Bears offense that needs a spark right now, but it's way too early to suggest Montgomery can't be that guy once the offensive line and overall flow of the offense improves.