Bears

Heisman winner could go pro after Alamo Bowl

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Heisman winner could go pro after Alamo Bowl

From Comcast SportsNet
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Since winning the Heisman Trophy, Robert Griffin III is often shadowed by a bodyguard of sorts to dissuade autograph seekers, and this week tucked his dreadlocks under a hat in hopes of strolling through Sea World incognito. "I got a lot of double-takes," the Baylor quarterback said. "If you can get a double-take, you can walk far enough away to where they'll be discouraged to approach you. But it was cool. I didn't mind." Now it's a question of whether RG3 is about to give college football its last look at him altogether. The nation's most electrifying player leads No. 15 Baylor (9-3) into the Alamo Bowl against Washington (7-5) on Thursday night while keeping his decision about leaving for the NFL private for now. Griffin, who says he can't "go to Wendy's and get a cheeseburger without signing 1,000 autographs" since winning college football's top award, reiterated in San Antonio that he's undecided about forgoing his senior year. He said his parents are looking at his draft prospects but denies having any substantial talks with them. Baylor can hardly feel jilted if this is Griffin's last game. The fourth-year junior, who also won the Davey O'Brien Award and is the AP Player of the Year, has raised the program's profile to unseen heights. He rescued the Bears from their perennial status as the Big 12's punch line and has Baylor on a five-game winning streak, its longest in 20 years. A win against Washington would match the school record of 10 wins when Mike Singletary was a senior in 1980, and merely playing in back-to-back bowls is a first for Baylor in two decades. Simply put, it's been a magical season the school doesn't want to see end. Washington won't exactly say the same. The Huskies stumbled into a second consecutive bowl game dropping four of their last six and losing badly to all four ranked teams they played this season. That included Stanford and Andrew Luck, the Heisman runner-up to Griffin, who coasted in a 65-21 win that began Washington's second-half slide. Yet tailback Chris Polk and other seniors still vividly remember going 0-12 just four years ago under Tyrone Willingham. According to the school, Washington is the first BCS program to go from winless to back-to-back bowl appearances in three years since Central Florida in 2004. "I would have never imagined this," offensive lineman Senio Kelemte said. "It was pretty hard for all of us, the 0-12 season. I'm pretty sure a lot of guys didn't really want to play football anymore or wanted to transfer or just ... just football wasn't fun." The Huskies have a shot at an eight-win season for the first time since 2001, but it might be a long night against Baylor. The Huskies will put one of the nation's worst defenses against the Bears, whose offense was the second-best in the country. Baylor averaged more than 570 yards of offense a game behind Griffin, who threw for nearly for 3,998 yards with a Big 12-leading 36 touchdowns and only six interceptions. That made him the nation's most efficient passer. Baylor averaged 43 points a game. Washington's let opponents score an average of 33. "We've had a huge challenge this whole year playing against good offenses," Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt said. "This is good offense and the only difference this time is that we're playing against the best player in the country and a Heisman Trophy winner who has a great supporting cast." Anything else? "And, oh yeah," Holt added. "They run an up-tempo, no huddle offense and can score really quickly." Griffin is the first Heisman winner to play in a bowl game before New Year's Day since Ty Detmer led BYU to the Holiday Bowl in 1990. Two years later, Baylor won its last postseason game in the Sun Bowl. Ending that drought may be the last thing left for Griffin for do. "We know why we're here and we came to win our 10th game," Griffin said. "Washington just happens to be in the way."

Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North

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USA TODAY

Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North

NBC Sports Chicago’s John "Moon" Mullin talked with The MMQB's Albert Breer, who shared his thoughts on where the Bears stand — and if they’ll be able to compete — in a highly competitive NFC North.

Moon: The Bears have made upgrades, but they’re in the NFC North and not many divisions are tougher, given the strength at quarterbacks.

Breer: Yes. You look at the other three teams, and they all very much believe they’re in a window for winning a championship. The Packers are going through some changes, but they’ve gotten Mike Pettine in there as defensive coordinator and a new general manager who was aggressive on draft day. I know that internally they feel that’s going to give them a boost, and bringing Aaron Rodgers back obviously is the biggest thing of all.

Minnesota, all the things they did this offseason, signing (quarterback) Kirk Cousins, (defensive lineman) Sheldon Richardson, and they were knocking on the door last year.

The Lions have been building for two years under (general manager) Bob Quinn and (new coach) Matt Patricia, who lines right up with the general manager — the two of them worked together in New England. They really believe that Matthew Stafford is ready to take the sort of jump that Matt Ryan made in Atlanta a few years ago, where you see that mid-career breakthrough from a quarterback that we see sometimes now.

It’s one of the toughest divisions in football, and every team in the division believes that it’s in the position to contend right now.

Moon: We didn’t see a lot of Mitch Trubisky — 12 games — so it sounds possible that the Bears could improve and still lose ground.

Breer: The Lions were pretty good last year. The Vikings were in the NFC Championship game. And who knows where the Packers would’ve been if Rodgers hadn’t broken his collarbone. The biggest change is that Aaron Rodgers will be back, and that’s the best player in the league. It was a really good division last year, and you’re adding back in a Hall of Fame quarterback.

As far as the Bears, there’s going to be questions where the organization is going. It’s been seven years since they were in the playoffs. I think they certainly got the coach hire right. This is a guy who I know other organizations liked quite a bit and was going to be a head coach sooner or later.

And I think he matches up well with Mitch. I think the Bears are in a good spot, but as you said, they’re competing in a difficult environment, so it may not show up in their record.

Moon: A lot of love for the Vikings after they get to the NFC Championship and then add Kirk Cousins.

Breer: A lot of people look at Minnesota and think Kirk Cousins’ll be a huge improvement. And maybe he will be. I think he’s a very good quarterback, top dozen in the league. But Case Keenum played really, really well last year, so it wasn’t like they weren’t getting anything out of that position last year.

The NFC right now is clearly the strength of the league. If you picked the top 10 teams in the league, you could make a case that seven or eight of them are in the NFC. I think there will be NFC teams that miss the playoffs who could be in the Super Bowl coming out of the AFC. There’s a little bit of an imbalance there.

Moon: Trubisky projects as part of a wave of new quarterbacks league-wide, a sea change in the NFL.

Breer: The interesting thing is that this is probably as stable as the league has been at quarterback in a long time. There’ve been questions where the next great quarterbacks will come from, but I don’t know that there’s a team right now in the NFL like you looked at the Jets or Browns last year, where you say that team is definitely drafting a quarterback in 2019.

Everyone either has a big-money veteran or former first-round pick on their roster. One team that doesn’t is the Cowboys, but they’ve got Dak Prescott who’s played really well. Every team in the league has some stability at the position. I think the position is as healthy as it’s been in a long time, and you’ve got a lot of good young prospects.

A significant first practice goes well for three Bears critical to 2018 success

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USA TODAY

A significant first practice goes well for three Bears critical to 2018 success

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — It’s a major Bears story until it isn’t, and in Friday's first practice of training camp ’18, the story was that Leonard Floyd, Kyle Long and Allen Robinson weren’t the story. 

Not even the weather was a story, as coach Matt Nagy continued the two-hour practice without interruption despite repeated torrential downpours. Whether this represented a soggy, wet chapter of Nagy’s campaign of physical practices and getting his team “calloused” is a question, but “It's just a part of what we wanted to do,” Nagy said, with a bit of a smile. “We weren't going inside. We were coming outside unless that (lightning/tornado) horn went off. So it was a good day. The guys fought through it.”

Getting through it was of franchise-grade import for three linchpins coming off significant injuries that cost them all or part of their 2017 seasons. All had been largely held out of minicamps and training camps, making Friday a de facto shakedown cruise for three players the Bears need at the elite levels projected for them.

Floyd practiced without the large brace he’d worn during minicamp work and which he admitted was an impediment to performance. Bears medical and training staff and Floyd have been pointing to this moment as the first step toward full health for the regular season.

“I basically, this whole offseason, I've been working on getting my leg right,” Floyd said on Friday. “I’m not really looking into who's playing where. I've been looking to get back healthy. ... Yeah, I'm able to go full force.”

Floyd’s pursuit speed was noteworthy as he ran down several offensive players with the football.

Players were not in pads, but Robinson similarly flashed, at one point making a difficult catch of a ball slightly behind him as he was tumbling to the ground. If he was holding anything back, it was not apparent in his cuts, routes and runs after catches.

“I feel great,” Robinson said. “It's been a process that we've taken a little bit slower, but I think that was for the best. It just was all about getting me ready for this time right here, so I feel great. I feel 100 percent.”

Long has been buffeted by injuries requiring surgeries over the past two years. The setbacks have taken him down from the Pro Bowl level at which he played his first three seasons.

But he turns 30 in December and is entering his sixth NFL season having missed 14 games the past two years after just one the first three.

“I’m feeling great,” Long said. “It’s really a lot of fun to get out here with my teammates and start camp without any limitations and be able to contribute from Day 1. It feels good. I spent a lot of time with our training staff. I got to know Andre Tucker really well, our new head trainer. He has done a tremendous job.

“You know, it’s Day 1 and I was out there at practice, and I got to hit other guys, and that was fun. I don’t look much into psychological hurdles. But a physical hurdle? Yes, it was. I had a lot going on this offseason. I’m just really happy to be out here.”

All was not good news physically for the Bears as inside linebacker Danny Trevathan and cornerback/special teamer Sherrick McManis were held out of practice after hamstring issues surfaced in their pre-camp physicals. Nagy said neither was considered serious but gave no timetable for their returns.