Bears

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."

Three questions for Bears ILBs: What kind of an impact will Roquan Smith make?

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USA TODAY

Three questions for Bears ILBs: What kind of an impact will Roquan Smith make?

Pre-camp depth chart

1. Danny Trevathan
2. John Timu
3. Joel Iyiegbuniwe

1. Roquan Smith
2. Nick Kwiatkoski
3. Jonathan Anderson

1. How good can Roquan Smith be?

Making sweeping observations from shorts-and-helmets practices in OTAs is often a fool’s errand, but Smith looked the part while running around the practice fields of Halas Hall after being drafted in April. His quickness and instinctiveness stood out — as they did at Georgia — and his football intelligence and work ethic were praised by coaches and teammates. 

“He’s learning well,” Trevathan said. “He’s doing a good job of learning. He’s learning the little things that you need to learn in this defense. Now it’s all about putting on a show and going out there and rocking.”

And that’s what’s going to be fun to watch in Bourbonnais: How does Smith play with the pads on? Chances are, the answer to that question will be “well,” setting the eighth overall pick on a path to being a mainstay of this defense for years to come. 

That’s not to say Smith doesn’t have plenty on which to work during training camp. But he left Georgia as a sort of “safe bet” in the draft, and nothing he’s done to this point has changed the view of him that he’s likely going to be a good one. 

2. Can Danny Trevathan stay healthy?

In terms of size and athleticism, Trevathan and Smith profile similar to NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, the inside linebacking tandem that was the spine of the San Francisco 49ers defense during Fangio’s time there. But for Trevathan and Smith to reach that lofty bar — or even to come close to it — Trevathan needs to be more available than he was his first two years with the Bears.

This isn’t questioning Trevathan’s toughness — far from it. That he returned for Week 1 of the 2017 season 10 months after rupturing his patellar tending (an injury that can be a career-ender) was impressive, and that he was immediately productive upon returning was even more extraordinary. But Trevathan missed three games in November due to a strained calf, and coupled with a one-game suspension and the seven games he missed in 2016, the 28-year-old has only played in 21 of 32 games since signing with the Bears. 

Trevathan is confident he can improve his production in 2018, given he wasn’t able to participate in last year’s offseason program practices. He’s entering his third year in Fangio’s defense and feels better prepared after going through OTAs and minicamps this year. It’s just now about him staying on the field to make sure that work pays off.

“I’m more comfortable with this defense, I’m more comfortable with the guys and the calls that we make,” Trevathan said. “I take pride in being correct and working my tail off and making the defense better. And the more that I can be out there — which I plan on being out there a lot — it’s going to help us tremendously.” 

3. How big a role will Nick Kwiatkoski have?

The Bears didn’t draft Smith because they felt like they absolutely needed to upgrade over Kwiatkoski, who’s acquitted himself well in 25 games since being picked in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. But Kwiatkoski has dealt with some injury issues, and for as solid a player as he may be, the Bears’ defense needed (and still needs) more great players. Drafting Smith gave the Bears a shot at adding a great player.

It also leaves Kwiatkoski in the same spot he was in a year ago, when the Bears entered the 2017 season with Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman as their unquestioned starting inside linebackers. Smith still has to earn that starting spot, but the safe bet is he will, relegating Kwiatkoski again to reserve duties.

And that’s a positive for the overall health of this defense, having a player good enough to start ready to play if needed. But it also raises this question: What do the Bears do with Kwiatkoski if he’s one of their four best linebackers, but isn’t one of their two best inside linebackers? 

So for the purposes of watching training camp practices, seeing if Kwiatkoski gets any reps at outside linebacker will be an interesting storyline to follow. 

Nationals fans sent Kyle Schwarber from hero to villain in monumentally entertaining Home Run Derby

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USA TODAY

Nationals fans sent Kyle Schwarber from hero to villain in monumentally entertaining Home Run Derby

WASHINGTON, D.C. — How could someone like Kyle Schwarber play the villain?

The fan favorite who’s always quick with a smile — or an Uncle Sam costume on the Fourth of July — Schwarber doesn’t fit the mold of a loathsome target of boos. But he made quite the heel turn in the minds of Washington Nationals fans Monday night, and of course he knew it was coming.

Schwarber went from getting cheered by the legions in attendance at the Home Run Derby to getting booed when he took on, and eventually lost to, hometown hero Bryce Harper in the final round.

“I was down in the tunnel saying, ‘If we get to the finals, Harp, they’re all going to be against me. I think they’re all going to be against me,’” Schwarber said Monday night. “And then I went out there and got booed after they all got pumped up for me. That’s just the beauty of it, and I was happy for Bryce that he won it in front of the home crowd.”

Harper delivered an incredibly memorable baseball moment Monday night, catching up to Schwarber’s 18 home runs with a ridiculous display of repetitive power to win a Home Run Derby for the ages. The format of this event, revamped a couple years ago, made for a dramatic and hugely entertaining evening. Harper smacked nine homers over the final 47 seconds of the final round to tie Schwarber, then bested him in bonus time. Unsurprisingly, the home crowd was going ballistic for their boy.

But earlier in the night, it was Schwarber getting all the cheers, when he made his own last-second comeback to beat Philadelphia Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins in the second round. Schwarber was pumping up the crowd, pumping his fists and screaming while putting on a show of his own to catch and pass Hoskins' 20 home runs and advance to the finals.

How quickly the locals forgot.

By the finals — during which Schwarber looked understandably exhausted — the crowd had turned on him, trying to get every advantage for Harper.

“As soon as I got done with that round, I told myself that he had it,” Schwarber said. “I knew that he had the home crowd behind him, and I knew that he was a very prolific power hitter with a great swing. For him to come in and do that and started getting down to the wire, all of a sudden he started racking them up one at a time. You kind of just accept your fate there.”

Perhaps the night could’ve ended differently for Schwarber had he listened more closely to the advice of his teammates, Javy Baez and Willson Contreras, who were quick with Gatorade, a towel and words of encouragement on Monday. Baez hit 16 home runs in his own first-round appearance, though Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Max Muncy knocked him out.

“I was just telling him to slow down,” Baez said. “He was kind of rushing a little bit, that’s why he was jumping to the ball.”

“They were actually giving me really good advice that I didn’t take because I was really dumb-headed,” Schwarber said. “‘Make sure you take some pitches and get the pitch that you want.’ At the end, I felt like I was swinging at everything. I was just running out of gas. I felt like I had to put up as many swings just to try to put a couple out.”

Schwarber was totally content with losing out to Harper’s home-field advantage. Though as his homers flew out deep into the right-field seats Monday night, you couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if Schwarber was instead taking aim at Sheffield Avenue and getting his own home-field advantage from Cubs fans.

The North Side hasn’t played host to the All-Star Game since 1990, so perhaps Schwarber will still be slugging the next time the Friendly Confines are the site of the Home Run Derby.

“That’d be really cool one day if the All-Star Game’s at Wrigley,” Schwarber said, “and to participate in the Derby, that’d be fun.”