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Jury in place, Sandusky trial to begin Monday

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Jury in place, Sandusky trial to begin Monday

From Comcast SportsNet
BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) -- The attorneys arguing the child sexual abuse trial of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky have four days to figure out how to sway a jury heavy with connections to the school. Seven women and five men will hear opening statements Monday in the sweeping case that rocked the university and led to the ouster of Hall of Fame football coach Joe Paterno. Four alternates also were chosen Wednesday after jury selection wrapped up in less than two days, a much brisker pace than some observers had expected given the school's deep roots in this mainly rural part of central Pennsylvania. But Judge John Cleland had insisted from the start that such connections wouldn't immediately rule out potential jurors so long as they could pledge to be impartial. Among the 16 jurors total selected, 10 had some tie -- either directly or indirectly -- to Penn State. One juror, a woman, is a professor who has taught for 24 years. Another woman has had football season tickets for decades. And one of the male jurors is a student who will be a senior this fall. Some legal experts said jurors with school connections might be inclined to come down hard on Sandusky, blaming him for Paterno's firing and the damage to the school's reputation. "From the prosecution's perspective, putting people on the jury with Penn State ties, their assessment might be these people might tend to disfavor Jerry Sandusky and the defense because he's responsible for dragging Penn State's name through the mud," said Chris Capozzi, a defense attorney in Pittsburgh and a former senior deputy attorney general under now-Gov. Tom Corbett. Capozzi, a Penn State graduate, left the attorney general's office in 2010. The state grand jury investigation of Sandusky began while Corbett was attorney general. Conversely, Capozzi said, Sandusky's defense lawyers appear satisfied those jurors can be fair and impartial, or that "people are going to be upset with the Office of the Attorney General and the way (the case) was handled ... and it's really the AG that's responsible for putting Penn State's name through the mud." Sandusky, 68, is charged with sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year span. He has denied the allegations. "In one sense, you worry about, this guy was for many years of his life a hero of that community, an idol," said St. Vincent College law professor Bruce Antkowiak, referring to Sandusky's role as founder of an acclaimed charity for youngsters. "On the other hand, there's also the consideration that there are people who believe this guy betrayed so much of what gave this institution and this area so much of the character and innocence that we love that he has besmirched it in such a profound way," Antkowiak added. Other jurors with ties to the school include a man whose father worked at Penn State's Office of Physical Plant for three decades and a woman who works as an administrative assistant at the university. On the list of potential witnesses, along with the young men who have accused Sandusky, are Paterno's widow and son; and assistant coach Mike McQueary, who said he saw Sandusky naked in a team shower with a boy more than a decade ago and reported it to Paterno. The head coach testified to relaying the allegation to his superiors, fulfilling his legal obligation. He was ousted in November by school trustees in part for not acting more decisively against Sandusky. Paterno died of lung cancer two months later at 85. On Wednesday, defense attorney Joseph Amendola asked again for a delay after alleging that the judge's gag order was violated by an ABC News report that said the accuser identified in court papers as Victim 4 would be the first witness. Cleland denied the request. The day began with Amendola -- arriving with Sandusky in the morning -- telling reporters he was confident the nine jurors picked as of the start of Wednesday would give them a "fair shake." During a midday break in jury selection, lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan said: "So far, so good." In court, Sandusky quietly leafed through a binder with plastic-covered pages. During another break, he turned to two media representatives and asked with a chuckle, "What did you guys do to deserve me?" and "How did you guys get stuck with this?" Several prospective jurors showed up at the courthouse in clothing with Penn State logos. And the web of Penn State connections was evident again when a group of 40 potential jurors were questioned early Wednesday. Ten indicated they worked at the university. Nineteen indicated they or a close family member had volunteered or contributed financially to Penn State. Fifteen said they knew someone on the prosecution's witness list, while 20 knew someone on Sandusky's defense list. Robert Del Greco, a criminal defense attorney in Pittsburgh, and member of the Criminal Litigation Section council of the Allegheny County Bar Association, wasn't surprised by the connections to Penn State on the jury. He called the trial the biggest event in Centre County since the Nittany Lions' 1986 national title. What mattered, Del Greco said, was that jurors pledged to be impartial for a trial expected to last about three weeks. "This jury has been seated with breakneck speed. I'm impressed and surprised with the expeditious manner with which it occurred. I think it speaks (favorably) of Cleland and the lawyers involved," Del Greco said. "If that is a harbinger of things to come ... we'll have a verdict within weeks (rather) than months."

Five fixes the Bears need to save their season

Five fixes the Bears need to save their season

As large swaths of the Chicagoland area succumb to full-blown panic about the 3-3 Bears, there’s one sanctuary from all that anger/disappointment/frustration felt by a city that, two months ago, expected its football team to compete for a Super Bowl. 

Inside the walls at 1920 Football Drive in Lake Forest, there’s an understanding of why those on the outside are worried. But players who spoke to the media upon returning to Halas Hall Tuesday didn’t project any concern about their ability to fix a season critically close to falling short of expectations. 

“I understand the panic from the outsiders,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “They're not in it. They don't see what's going on. And plus (the media) want answers, you guys have questions, I'm assuming because you guys are thinking like, Why, this is almost the same team as last year, what's going on? 

“From our side, we're on the inside, we know what's going on. Even though we might give you guys the PC answer, we're still hurting inside, (it’s) still frustrating but we know what's going on and the reason why we're not panicking is because we're confident we're going to fix it.”

So those inside Halas Hall are confident in their collective ability to turn this season around. But how can they do it? Here are five critical ways:

1. Quarterback play raises all boats

Nothing can do more for an entire team that good quarterback play. It’s the sort of thing the team talked up while evaluating quarterbacks prior to drafting Mitch Trubisky in 2017, that ability to “raise all boats,” as then-coach John Fox put it. There’s some truth to that. 

Would Mitch Trubisky making better decisions and throws help Eddie Jackson get his first interception of 2019? Not necessarily. But the Bears are averaging 71 defensive snaps per game, fourth-highest in the NFL behind another bad offense (Washington) and two of the most explosive passing offenses in the NFL in the Lions and Chiefs (Detroit is second and Kansas City is sixth in that category, per Sharp Football Stats). 

The Bears’ offense is struggling to stay on the field and give its defense a breather. Only four teams — the woebegone Steelers, Dolphins, Washington and Jets — are averaging fewer first downs per game than the Bears’ 17. 

And it’s notable how the Bears’ defense has faltered late in games (fourth quarters against Denver and Oakland, and the second half against New Orleans) when it’s been subjected to a high volume of snaps. 

Better play from Trubisky would mean more first downs and more touchdowns, and less pressure on a defense missing Akiem Hicks to win games week in and week out. 

This isn’t meant to completely absolve the defense — more on them later — but the lack of any consistency on offense is absolutely not helping Chuck Pagano’s group. Notably, Nagy admitted after Sunday's game that the Bears' offensive struggles are starting to impact the defense. 

2. A better commitment to the run

We touched on this yesterday, but David Montgomery has been at his best when he’s been given consecutive carries. Even if he only picks up one yard on first and 10, Nagy needs to stick with him to give Montgomery and the offensive line a chance at establishing a rhythm in the run game. 

Trubisky has not proven to be good enough to pass to set up the run, as Nagy said he hoped he could accomplish against the Saints. This run game may not prove to be very good, either. But it at least needs a chance on a week-to-week basis to prove it can be a reliable part of this offense, and in turn help Trubisky do the things he needs to do to be that boat-raiser the Bears have wanted for two years. 

"I'm not an idiot," Nagy said Monday. "I know we need to run the ball more."

3. Take the invisibility cloak off the tight ends

Trey Burton is averaging 5.2 yards per reception this year, exactly half his 2018 average. The Bears guaranteed Burton $22 million for him to be an “adjuster” in their offense, the kind of guy who helps Trubisky identify coverages while also being a weapon for which defensive coordinators have to account. 

But because Burton hasn’t shown much of anything this year — his longest reception is 11 yards — opposing defenses don’t need to be deeply concerned with his ability to impact a game. Burton hasn’t looked fully healthy since missing Week 1 with a groin injury (this after he underwent offseason sports hernia surgery), and worryingly did not look any better after resting up during the Bears’ off week. 

Still, the Bears need to get more out of Burton both as a receiver and run blocker. The same goes for Adam Shaheen, though that he only played 32 percent of the Bears snaps against the Saints — after an off week of coaches self-scouting — does not offer much a sign of encouragement. 
At some point, Burton is what he is in 2019, and Shaheen is what he has been since debuting in 2017. 

4. Unlock Tarik Cohen’s explosiveness

Cohen’s average of 2.1 yards per reception was the second-lowest in NFL history for a player with at least nine catches, per Pro Football Reference’s Play Index. The Bears’ most explosive offensive weapon is now averaging 4.0 yards per touch — which, for reference, is over a yard lower than his average in 2017 with Dowell Loggains and John Fox designing the offense. Also for reference: Jordan Howard averaged four yards per touch in 2018. 

This is mostly, but not all, a coaching and quarterback matter. It’s true Nagy has tried to get Cohen the ball downfield, with his quarterback not coming close to connecting on those throws:

But Cohen is averaging 5.4 yards after the catch per reception, per PFF tied for 165th in the NFL. Cohen averaged 7.4 yards after the catch per reception in 2018. A lot of that falls on coaches not unlocking his explosiveness, but some of it falls on the diminutive running back getting the ball and seeking out the sidelines. 

Whatever the reason, the Bears’ offense will not operate near full capacity if Cohen is basically 2018 Jordan Howard when he has the ball in his hand. 

5. More big plays on defense. 

Worse turnover luck does not fully explain why Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson — who were No. 1 and No. 2 in the NFL last year with seven and six interceptions, respectively — only have one interception between the two of them through six games. Those two guys need to harness the route-jumping aggressiveness they had in 2018 and bring it back to a defense in 2019 that sorely needs it. 

Similarly: The Saints in all likelihood offered a preview of how opposing offenses will block up Khalil Mack going forward, by committing two or three players to No. 52 on every passing play. Without Hicks to dominate in the interior, and without Leonard Floyd winning one-on-one matchups with much consistency, Pagano may need to find different ways to scheme pressure on opposing quarterbacks (though Mack remains good enough to beat those double/triple-teams on occasion). 

This Bears defense is still good, but in the absence of major offensive improvements it needs to be great for this team to have a shot at contending for a playoff spot. 

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Wendell Carter Jr. is now 6 feet, 9 inches---and other Bulls' height adjustments

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USA Today

Wendell Carter Jr. is now 6 feet, 9 inches---and other Bulls' height adjustments

With player heights long a topic of question and debate, the NBA informed teams that all players must be measured by a team physician this training camp.

It’s all part of the league’s push towards transparency, which includes detailed reports on officiating and other initiatives.

So who grew and who shrank among the Bulls?

Wendell Carter Jr. dropped from 6 feet, 10 inches to 6-foot-9, which will do nothing to change the narrative that he's an undersized big man. Kris Dunn moved from 6-4 to 6-3. Daniel Gafford isn’t 6-11, as first advertised when drafted, but 6-10. And Denzel Valentine is no longer 6-6 but 6-4.

The Bulls even pushed down Coby White’s flamboyant hairstyle and discovered he’s 6-4, not 6-5.

As for those who grew, well, Zach LaVine’s All-Star candidacy now features him as a 6-6 guard, not 6-5. New big man Luke Kornet is really big; he’s 7-2, not 7-1. And Shaq Harrison somehow grew from 6-4 to 6-7.

That’s the official Bulls’ roster. 

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