Lilly tried to stay out of the Dempster trade drama


Lilly tried to stay out of the Dempster trade drama

LOS ANGELES The narrative made Ted Lilly a key figure in the Ryan Dempster trade drama, which is ironic, because as he said, even my exciting is boring.

Lilly delivered that line because he couldnt understand why a reporter would want to shoot him with a flip camera at his locker. Well, Dempster had to answer questions about his future for weeks, and his first choice by far was to play with Lilly again.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took a vow of silence before the deadline, but did a media tour once Dempster was property of the Texas Rangers. The Cubs executives said they respected those 10-and-5 no-trade rights dont blame Dempster while subtly pointing out how he held them up by insisting on the Los Angeles Dodgers and killing a deal with the Atlanta Braves.

Lilly, a cerebral pitcher with a dry sense of humor, hadnt really given his side of the story yet. Lilly said he talked to Dempster a little bit, but didnt become a recruiter.

I kind of let him call me, Lilly said Saturday. I just imagined that he had a lot of people probably pulling him in different directions. Obviously, he was one of the prized pitching targets out there for a lot of clubs. So Im sure that besides myself there were a lot of guys that would like to have added him (to their) team.

The Dodgers needed pitching help because Lilly (5-1, 3.14 ERA) has been on the disabled list since late May with left shoulder inflammation. They wound up getting right-hander Joe Blanton on Friday from the Philadelphia Phillies for cash.

The Dodgers let the Cubs know which of their pitching prospects were off-limits, but otherwise the two sides didnt really get close. Lilly said he didnt lobby the front office on Dempsters behalf.

Ryan has a pretty good reputation around the league, Lilly said. I dont think that he needs me or anybody else to vouch for his character and his work ethic and what hes all about. I think hes been in the league long enough to where people kind of know that hes a hard-working, dedicated professional.

Dempster took out a full-page ad in Fridays Chicago Tribune thanking Cubs fans and the city for supporting the team and his charitable foundation. But the way it ended didnt help his image.

Lilly was a Cubs union rep before being traded to Los Angeles at the 2010 deadline.

Whats the point of 10-5 rights? Lilly said. Why would we want to have that in play, if its never going to be used? Or if the clubs still going to obviously try to do whats best for them, (why should) a player (catch) a lot of heat for it?

You have a full no-trade. It kind of puts the player in a tough spot in that regard. (Dempsters) pretty grateful to the Chicago fans and definitely at the same time wants the Cubs organization to get better, too.

Dempster and Lilly were teammates for almost four years and played on teams that won back-to-back division titles in 2007 and 2008. They pushed each other between starts and became particularly close after Dempsters daughter Riley was born with DiGeorge syndrome. Lilly hopes theyll be teammates again.

Dempster will be a free agent at seasons end and the Dodgers figure to be at the top of the list. This is a National League team that plays in a pitchers park and trains in Arizona, where Dempster has a home. There is great tradition and a chance to win a World Series.

Lilly who loved playing in Chicago and desperately wanted to be part of the team that finally won it was asked if Cubs fans will have the patience to see a total rebuild: Theyve had patience for the last 102, 103 years or whatever, so Id imagine.

A reporter corrected the number and Lilly responded: Is that what it is? 104? Whos counting? Its been awhile.

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the Patriots will be a tough test for the Bears, but it looks like they're going to receive a big break.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't travel with the Patriots to Chicago and is "highly unlikely" to play Sunday.

Avoiding Gronkowski, who is one of Brady's favorite targets, would be a huge break for the Bears' defense. In six games this season, the tight end has 26 receptions for 405 yards and a touchdown; in 14 games last season, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gronkowski has not officially been ruled out yet, though time is running out for the Patriots to make a decision.

Meanwhile, Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday despite dealing with an ankle injury. Between having Mack on the field and Gronkowski off of it, good news keeps coming for the Bears' defense.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”