Bulls

Packers have a tough decision to make

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Packers have a tough decision to make

From Comcast SportsNetGREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- The Green Bay Packers are sticking with Mason Crosby, although that decision has as much to do with their personnel philosophy as it does with their faith in the struggling kicker.After missing a pair of field-goal attempts during the Packers' 21-13 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Crosby is 17 of 29 (an NFL-worst 58.6 percent) this season and has botched at least one kick in the past eight games. Nevertheless, coach Mike McCarthy remained steadfast in his support of Crosby, saying no change is in the offing."Mason Crosby is an accountable man. He needs to perform better," McCarthy said Monday. "I'm disappointed in the way he performed yesterday. There's more that goes into it as far as when you evaluate players and everything around each player at their position. So, at the end of the day, Mason will be our kicker and that's my focus."While Crosby was having another rough outing, two other players the team chose to keep around -- despite uneven production or injury issues -- were delivering for them: Sixth-year wide receiver James Jones and third-year defensive end Mike Neal."I think it's clear what we think about the players that we draft," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. "We want to develop them and do well. Mason's had some bumps and he needs to get it right."Crosby, a 2007 sixth-round draft pick out of Colorado, signed a five-year, 14.75 million contract extension that included a 3 million signing bonus in July 2011 and responded with the best season of his career last year, making 24 of 28 field-goal attempts.He has a base salary of 1.65 million this season and has three more years left on his deal, at 2.4 million in 2013, 2.65 million in 2014 and 2.8 million in 2015.Asked after Sunday's game if he was worried about the Packers cutting him, Crosby replied, "That's not even on my mind. ... I'm not even going to think about that."While Crosby has missed at least one kick in each of the Packers' last eight games, the team is 7-1 during that stretch."Obviously, it's frustrating whenever you're not making kicks," Crosby said. "But the biggest thing is that I'm not making the kicks to put this team up by two touchdowns. That was my thing. That was six points there and if we're up two touchdowns, it's a different end. But the result is the same. We won the game, just a little different ending."The Packers can only hope that Crosby rewards their faith the way Jones and Neal have.Jones struggled with inconsistent play and dropped passes earlier in his career, but was re-signed to an economical three-year deal before the 2011 season. After catching three touchdown passes from quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, Jones leads the NFL in TD receptions with 12. He enters this Sunday's game against Tennessee with a career-best 51 receptions for 622 yards.Neal, who endured two injury-plagued seasons and then opened this one serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances, registered 1 sacks on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and was praised by outside linebacker Clay Matthews for helping him get his two sacks on stunts. Neal has 3 sacks this season, second on the team to Matthews (11)."It's the core of the philosophy of how we operate here. The core philosophy is draft and develop, and the development is about growth," McCarthy said. "Now, let's not act like there's not times when things are not moving in the right direction. Any time you hit a situation that's not favorable, you don't have production or the result is not what you intended it to be, you have to choose which direction you're going to go. The direction right now is we're sticking with Mason Crosby as our kicker."However, it does appear that Crosby's struggles are affecting McCarthy's decision-making. The Packers twice went for it on fourth down against the Bears, converting a fourth-and-2 from the Chicago 37-yard line in the second quarter instead of trying a 55-yard field goal and converting a fourth-and-6 from the Bears 26 instead of attempting a 44-yard kick.The first conversion didn't lead to points because Crosby missed a 43-yard attempt wide right on a fourth-and-6 from the Chicago 25, while the second conversion led to Jones' third touchdown, on the opening drive of the second half.Crosby's other miss came when McCarthy decided to try a 42-yard kick on fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 24, and Crosby clanged it off the left upright."It wasn't an ideal day to kick but I thought he should have made both the field goals that we attempted," Slocum said. "The thing I'm disappointed in is not taking his preparation into the game. And he's got to do that. He had a great week of practice last week and was good in pregame warmup. He needs to make those field goals and trust what he's done during the week in preparation and move forward."I think he is really trying to get the ball through the uprights and I look forward to him doing it. And that's where we are."Asked if sticking with Crosby despite his misses might create an issue with other players, to whom accountability is constantly emphasized by the coaching staff, McCarthy acknowledged that was a possibility."That's a great question for the locker room," McCarthy replied. "I'm not going to sit here and act like everyone's not watching how the situation's being handled, there's no question about it. Evaluation of everybody is an ongoing process as you prepare to win each game."Definitely, no one's happy with the number of kicks that Mason has missed. As we stand here today on who's going to line up and kick, it's Mason Crosby. I don't know how to continue to answer this question. He needs to be accountable for his performance, but as far as what happens between the evaluation of the game or the past games and how he's performed and how we move forward into the next game, there's a number of different factors. Mason Crosby is our kicker."

Players vote Thaddeus Young, Otto Porter Jr. as Bulls captains

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USA Today

Players vote Thaddeus Young, Otto Porter Jr. as Bulls captains

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- The tribe has spoken. In a players' only vote administered by coach Jim Boylen, Thaddeus Young and Otto Porter Jr. will be captains for the Bulls.

"They’ve demonstrated an ability to put the team above themselves and the ability to communicate with their teammates in a positive way," Boylen said. "I haven’t felt they’re worried about getting liked. They’re worried about getting it right. Something we talk about here is leadership over likership. And I think they have a great feel of that."

Young, a 12-year veteran, long has commanded respect as the consummate teammate. Porter arrived from the Wizards last season and is in his seventh season.

"It means a lot," Porter said. "Just everything I’m doing is for the team, on and off the court. I gotta represent the team right. Make sure our guys are knowing they’re leaded in the right direction. I take that seriously."

Zach LaVine has voiced desire to assume more leadership and perhaps other players, particularly relatively new ones, earning the captain title over him will be instructional and motivational. In the meantime, look for LaVine to land on Boylen's leadership committee, which he established last season. The practice, which is used more in football than basketball, raised some eyebrows around the league for its unconventional usage.

"The leadership group has not disintegrated. It’ll be structured with the help of the captains. I felt the captains was the first step to that. Captains are very important to me in my career," Boylen said. "I’ve always thought it’s big to the leadership of your team. I’m thrilled with the two players that the team voted on having as our captains. We wanted training camp to go by. We wanted everybody to get a chance to be together and see how people operate. And so we voted on it."

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It's playoff week for several 4-4 teams

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NBC Sports Chicago

It's playoff week for several 4-4 teams

While the official start of the 2019 IHSA State Football Playoffs won't be announced until Saturday night, teams that are holding 4-4 records heading into Week 9 are already in state playoff mode.

Several familiar names are in search of big Week 9 wins just to get into the playoff field. 

Marist (4-4) has been a Class 8A regular yet the Redhawks and head coach Ron Dawczak will need to beat Loyola Academy (6-2) on Saturday in Wilmette just to find a place in the playoffs this year. So how difficult has the Redhawks road been so far in 2019? Marist four losses (Notre Dame/Brother Rice/Mount Carmel and Nazareth Academy) have a combined 28-4 record and beating Loyola on Saturday in Wilmette should count for more like two wins.

Naperville Central (4-4) entered the 2019 season ranked by everyone, yet after a 0-3 start the Redhawks have been able to settle down and win four of its last five games to get into position to land its fifth win Friday night in Naperville. The Redhawks can undoubtedly make a case for having one of the state toughest schedule. Its four losses (Hinsdale Central, Lincoln-Way East, Pickerington Central OH and Neuqua Valley) are a combined 29-3. So who's the Redhawks Week 9 cupcake? None other than the state's top ranked team in East St. Louis (8-0). And much like Marist a win over the Flyers this Friday should count for much more than one win. 

New Trier (4-4) and head coach Brian Doll has made the IHSA state playoff field for the past 16 seasons and 23 out of the last 24 years, yet the Trevians need to beat longtime rival Maine South (6-2) at home tomorrow night to keep it's state playoff streak alive. 

The DuKane Conference has been full of surprises in 2019 and both St. Charles North (4-4) and Wheaton North (4-4) are looking to seek wins on Friday to remain alive. St. Charles North was also highly ranked to begin the season but has dropped three straight games and will need to beat Wheaton South (5-3) at Red Grange Field to advance.  Wheaton North has won two straight games including a big 24-19 win last Friday over St. Charles East (6-2), but now a Friday night showdown against Batavia (6-2) in Batavia looms for the Falcons. 

The North Suburban conference has a ‘Win To Get In Bowl’ Friday night as Stevenson (4-4) travels to Lake Forest (4-4). Libertyville (4-4) needs a wn on Friday night against Zion-Benton (3-5) and the Wildcats will be keeping a close eye on the playoff pairings show since they are low (30) on playoff points. 

The Southwest Prairie East is, well, a mess. Plainfield South (4-4/3-1) and Plainfield East (4-4/3-1) are seeking a win to get in, yet even with wins both Plainfield schools could lose the conference title and automatic bid to Joliet West (3-5/3-1). Joliet West and head coach Bill Lech holds a tie breaker if all three teams win on Friday night and that looks more and more a possibility. Plainfield South will host Romeoville (1-7), Plainfield East travels to Joliet Central (1-7) and Joliet West will travel to Plainfield Central (1-7). 

Both East Aurora  (4-4) and Elgin (4-4) square off on Friday at Elgin's Memorial Stadium for a chance at getting into the state playoff field...and just let that statement sink in. East Aurora. Elgin. State Football Playoffs. Needless to say not too many outside of those programs expected to be playing a meaningful in Week 9 especially with so much on the line. A win for East Aurora would be the Tomcats first state playoff bid since 1982 and for Elgin it would be the Maroons second state playoff appearance since 2001.

Looking for more drama? The West Suburban Silver conference will feature Lyons Township (4-4) and first year head coach Dan Hartman in search of its fifth win on Friday night. All the Lions and Dan Hartman has to do is travel to Hinsdale Central (7-1) and beat Hartman's former team from  a season ago in Hinsdale. Also Oak Park-River Forest (4-4) has a tall task looking to get an upset win over Glenbard West (8-0) in Oak Park on Friday night. 

While several of these on the bubble teams have some tall task this week, never say never especially when teams are playing for their playoff lives and if the 2019 season has taught us anything, it's that anything can happen on any given Friday night/Saturday in IHSA football.