Bears

Rose's recovery affecting Bulls' offseason plans?

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Rose's recovery affecting Bulls' offseason plans?

After the injury-plagued season the Bulls endured, it's fitting that the last official media-availability session of the season occurred at a hospital.

With Tuesday's press conference at Rush University Medical Center confirming that Derrick Rose will indeed miss eight to 12 months as he recovers from Saturday's ACL surgery, the organization now enters the offseason with the separate -- yet related -- agendas of fielding a competitive and cost-effective roster, adding serviceable players on the cheap and compensating for Rose's absence while bringing in players who will mesh with the All-Star point guard upon his return, although perhaps not in that order.

"Thats our job between now and July. Obviously short-term, were going to take a hit. Our thinking in general, long-term, wont change at all and the short-term, obviously you dont replace Derrick and what he brings to the team, and the production that hes got, but were going to have to fill that spot, scrape it together in the mean time, to fit in with our other guys," Bulls general manager Gar Forman said Tuesday.

"Were hopeful at some point he would be back. Im not sure were going to make plans as if he will be, but were optimistic he will be at some point. The biggest thing in mind is with an injury like this, weve obviously spent a lot of time putting a team together. In putting this team together, everything was looking at big picture, long-term and I think its our job to stay focused on that, and continue to look at what we feel is a long window of opportunity to have success and thats how well approach it. Have we taken a hit in the short-term? Without question. But will we make decisions based on the short-term? We wont.

"All our decisions will continue to be based long-term and obviously a big part of that is Derrick, who we feel is going to be a special player for us for the next 10, 15 years," he continued. "I really dont think Rose's absence will affect the Bulls' offseason decision-making process a lot. Again, any of the decisions we make from a basketball standpoint will be with long-term in mind, so I dont see it affecting a whole lot of the decisions that we make."

Added Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, a late arrival to the press conference: "Theres a process we go through. Well be in evaluation right now, then we have the draft coming up, so thatll be one opportunity to add. Then, there will be free agency after that. Then, theres summer league. Theres a lot of different avenues to go down, but the core of the team will be the same and we feel real good about that.

The Bulls have four players under contract making eight-figure salaries in the 2012-13 season -- Rose, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and All-Star Luol Deng -- and three veteran reserve free agents for whom they hold team options in backup point guard C.J. Watson and swingmen Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer, as well as a restricted free agent in center Omer Asik.

Asik is the most likely to return, as the Bulls can match opposing teams' offers for him, and the team will have to figure out who will fill in at point guard to start next season, but as of the present time, the team's focus is on Rose.

"Weve got a great medical staff. I'm glad everything went well. Derricks really upbeat, doing a great job with his rehab and looking forward to the challenge ahead," said Thibodeau, who has visited with the superstar point guard since the Bulls' playoff run ended. "The most important thing for us right now is his health, so we want him to focus on that and as we said during the season when it happened, its a new challenge for us, well get through it, we want him to prioritize his health right now and when hes ready to come back, hell come back. But there will be no pressure on him to come back soon. When hes ready, hes ready and then, well move forward from there.

"Hes a fierce competitor, as we all know, but hes also very coachable, so whatever hes being asked to do, hell do it and hell do it well, and hell do fine. Hes in great spirits right now and hes very determined," he continued. "Like everything, hes diligent in his approach. I think he prepared for the surgery well and now, hes going into the next phase and hes very upbeat."

Bears injury report: Mitchell Trubisky still listed as questionable after three straight days of full practice

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USA TODAY

Bears injury report: Mitchell Trubisky still listed as questionable after three straight days of full practice

Everything leading into Week 7’s Bears-Saints game makes it sound like Mitchell Trubisky will make his return under center, but officially he’s still questionable.

Trubisky still has that designation despite being a full participant in practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Trubisky has missed the past two games with a left shoulder injury.

Defensive tackle Bilal Nichols and offensive lineman Ted Larsen are also questionable. Nichols was limited in practice on Friday with hand and knee injuries. Larsen was a full go in practice on Friday with a knee injury after being limited on Wednesday and Thursday.


Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe are listed on the injury report, but expected to play.

Who's the Bears' best option to replace Kyle Long at right guard?

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USA Today

Who's the Bears' best option to replace Kyle Long at right guard?

The Bears have three options on their roster to start on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, the first game of — in all likelihood — the post-Kyle Long era in Chicago. Is a guy who’s only played 30 snaps as a guard in his pro or college career really the right choice?

Rashaad Coward may be new to the position, but the Bears like his athleticism, physical edge and work ethic he brings to the offense. Also in the conversation: 10-year veteran Ted Larsen and undrafted rookie Alex Bars. 

Coward has more immediate upside, but Larsen (who's officially questionable with a knee injury, though he practiced in full Friday) is more a you-know-what-you're-getting guy. Coward's upside, though, lies in the athleticism and physicality he showed in limited time against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4.

“He’s a tough guy, he plays very, very hard,” offensive line coach Harry Hiestand said. “It’s super important to him, he’s very prideful, he’s very determined to keep his guy from making a play and that’s a big part of this.”

That Hiestand has actual game film on which to evaluate and teach Coward is important. And the Bears saw him do some good things in letting his raw talent take over against the Vikings. 

“Going into the game, I was like F it,” Coward said. “It is what it is. It’s either you do it or you don’t.”

Coward said on Monday he practiced with the No. 1 offense, and given Larsen was limited in Wednesday's and Thursday's practices, there's a decent chance Coward will start on Sunday. 

Larsen, though, is the kind of guy who could get the nod on Sunday without getting many reps during mid-week practices. 

Larsen suffered the injury in Week 4, which led to Coward entering the game, and he didn’t travel to London with the Bears in Week 5. But his veteran experience — he’s started 87 games in his career — and flexibility to play guard or center make him a trusted backup.

“I played a lot of football,” Larsen said. “I’m ready whenever they want to use me.”

There is a possibility the Bears rotate Larsen and Coward on a series-to-series basis, as the team did with a veteran (Eric Kush) and a greenhorn (James Daniels) at left guard last year. 

"It’s something that could definitely happen," Nagy said. "I’m not opposed to that. And then you can also balance and see, whether it’s Ted or Rashaad, how are they playing and we can get a feel for that during a game and we feel comfortable with both."

Bars is unlikely to factor this week but does have long-term upside. He turned down an opportunity to join the New England Patriots’ 53-man roster earlier this month because he saw a better opportunity in Chicago. That his college offensive line coach is now his pro offensive line coach certainly played into that decision, too.

Many thought Bars would be a mid-round draft pick prior to his final season at Notre Dame, but a torn ACL and MCL suffered last September knocked him down to being an undrafted free agent. The opportunity to link back up with Hiestand helped bring him to Chicago, where he played well during the preseason — but not well enough to make the Bears’ initial 53-man roster.

“The transition to this level coming off the injury was an adjustment I had to make, still making it every day,” Bars said. “I’m trying to improve and work against really, really good guys.” 

The Bears’ starting right guard for the rest of 2019 will hardly be settled by who starts against the Saints in Week 7. Coward may get the first crack, but if his inexperience overshadows his talent, the Bears may need to call on a safer option in Larsen. And that could open the door for Bars to start, too, if he proves to Hiestand behind the scenes he’s back on the track he was on prior to his collegiate injury.

Whoever plays, though, needs to be better than Long was over his four games prior to going on injured reserve. The Bears made that difficult decision in part to improve at right guard. It’s now on Coward — or Larsen, or Bars — to make good on that promise.

"Between the three of them I think it will be fun for us to kind of work through what decision, where we want to go with that," Nagy said. "And then whoever it is, let's go. There's no looking back."

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