Bears

Serenity now: Cubs will let Marlins do damage control

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Serenity now: Cubs will let Marlins do damage control

The Cubs spent Mondays off-day in Miami. The sun and the sand might as well be a postcard for the teams serenity now state of mind.

One team will be in crisis mode on Tuesday in Little Havana, and it wont be the Cubs. Ozzie Guillen returns from his five-game suspension and the Marlins will have to spin the story to their citys strong Cuban community.

Protestors may gather outside Marlins Park after Guillen made sympathetic comments about Fidel Castro in an interview with TIME magazine. The Cubs will just show up for work. Theyve already had front-row seats to the media circus.

One player compared the past few years to a runaway train. The team was up for sale, and the fans blamed everything on general manager Jim Hendry, even if it wasnt all his fault. Milton Bradley and Carlos Zambrano created fireworks in the clubhouse.

Inside the managers office, Lou Piniella burned out. Mike Quade won over the players during a 37-game audition, but lost them over the course of the 2011 season.

To be clear, the Cubs dont have it all figured out yet. Theyre 3-7 and the national experts seem to think theyll wind up around 90 losses.

But now that Theo Epstein has been given the keys to the kingdom, there is a sense of stability and confidence in the long-range plan. People have noticed how quiet it is around this team.

Everybody just focuses on what we do playing baseball, outfielder Alfonso Soriano said. Everybodys relaxed and enjoys what we do.

This is different now, a lot of young guys, a lot of talent, new manager, new GM. Those guys they know what theyre doing. Theyre very smart.

Dale Sveum has zero tolerance for nonsense. The manager wont have to answer for Zambranos next explosion.

Its gonna happen, an ex-teammate predicted. Its in his DNA.

The Cubs transferred more than 15 million to the Marlins in the Zambrano trade, a deal that almost certainly doesnt happen if Guillen isnt managing in Miami.

Epsteins front office consciously tried to tape a distraction-free zone around the team. Near the end of spring training Ryan Dempster who will get the start on Tuesday night was asked about the new atmosphere.

I think its too early to say, Dempster said then. DeJesus is a real problem child. This kids crazy.

Yes, the Cubs imported low-key, low-maintenance veterans like David DeJesus, Ian Stewart and Paul Maholm. Sveum created a serious environment where hitters are in the cage early and studying video on computers late.

There are so many outside distractions in baseball, (even without) the situation in Miami, outfielder Reed Johnson said. They just kind of stressed to really focus on doing the little things weve done in spring training to help us win games.

If we can do those little things, thats really going to give us our best chance to keep putting some Ws in the win column.

Sveum believes a team takes on the managers personality, and this is where the Cubs broke off from the Red Sox model.

Boston woke up on Monday trying to interpret Bobby Valentine going on television and saying that Kevin Youkilis wasnt as physically or emotionally into the game.

Sveum doesnt need to see his face on billboards, and didnt come into the season with any plans for endorsements. He shrugs and sort of chuckles in the middle of his answers, and his grammar isnt perfect.

All that masks a very sophisticated view of the game, heavy on quantitative analysis, with an understanding of its emotional rhythms.

One thing you try and do as a manager is keep everybody on the same playing field every single day and communicate, Sveum said. As a manager, you have to be the same guy every day. Its just one of those things: Keep going, its a long season.

As an organization, the Cubs dont want any surprises. The video and the numbers will tell them where to position fielders. The background reports on potential draft picks will run four- or five-pages long. Decisions wont be made from the gut. Its all about risk management.

Chris Volstad the pitcher acquired in the Zambrano trade grew up in South Florida and spent almost seven years in the Marlins organization.

When Volstad was asked what to expect for Ozzie Night at Marlins Park, he said the two words the Cubs never want to hear: Well see.

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

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Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.

History.

That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: