Bears

Theo Epstein doesnt regret the Kerry Wood deal

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Theo Epstein doesnt regret the Kerry Wood deal

About 90 minutes after Theo Epstein said you cant make baseball decisions based on public relations, Kerry Wood walked out onto the balcony and heard the roar inside a Hilton Chicago ballroom.

It was a made-for-TV moment, Kid K returning just in time for the start of the Cubs Convention last January.

It had taken almost three months to reach a modest agreement a one-year, 3 million deal that contained a 3 million club option for 2013 (with no buyout).

Near the end of the 2011 season, Wood had joked about losing all his negotiating power by saying hed either pitch for the Cubs or else retire.

But Wood had built up capital with chairman Tom Ricketts and former general manager Jim Hendry. The talks stalled with Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, the new administration.

Wood said at one point he had come to terms with another team and was waiting to get the call for a physical.

During his farewell press conference on Saturday at Wrigley Field, Wood made a point to thank Epstein and Hoyer for bringing him back. Relations seem to have improved. The Cubs president would do it all over again.

If youve got 3 million, Epstein said, and youre looking for a veteran reliever with swing-and-miss ability who has a chance to really perform and help, you could do a lot worse than Kerry Wood.

It made sense from a baseball standpoint and it just didnt work out. Thats the way things go. Kerry didnt know it wasnt going to work out either. (But) he really handled himself well and I dont really regret it.

Obviously, no one has a crystal ball, but I think you can never go wrong investing in good people as a rule. If it works out or not that particular time you know what well get the next one.

Epstein was in Chestnut Hill, Mass., on Thursday scouting for the draft when he got a call from Wood around 10 minutes before the Boston College-Duke University game was about to start.

This made it official, though for several days Epstein had an idea that Wood was heading in this direction. They had informal discussions about Woods post-playing career last winter, and Epstein would welcome him into the front office as a special assistant.

Thats all whenever hes ready to talk about it, Epstein said. I always recommend the guys take a period of time completely away from the game.

Its important to get that separation to stop seeing the game as a player and start to see it from a little bit of distance. But he knows that the door is completely open, whatever he wants to do. I can only imagine the benefit that hell have for young pitchers in our organization.

It will be cool to show him the scouting side of things, too. You never know when someone might have a knack for that and really like it. Theres scouting, theres player development, theres the daily machinations of the front office. (Hell) continue his big influence on the community here. So theres more than a full plate awaiting him whenever the time is right.

Epstein found fame inside the superstar culture of the Boston Red Sox. The Yale University student was a summer intern with the Baltimore Orioles during the second half of Cal Ripken Jr.s career. He worked for the San Diego Padres during Tony Gwynns final years.

It can be a really tough dynamic, Epstein said. Because of that, I have even more admiration for how Kerry handled himself. Its very hard for players to evaluate themselves clearly and to know when it might be time. (Its being) able to see their careers and their abilities from 10,000 feet instead of from right up close.

We didnt want him to walk away, but he knows himself better than anybody. I think he did it for all the right reasons. He showed a lot of maturity. I have a lot of respect for how he went about it.

Epstein admitted that he doesnt have the same history with Wood as others in the organization, or the fans in the bleachers. The Cubs president is still new to all this.

But Epstein was struck on Friday while watching Wood walk off the mound and hug his son Justin by the dugout.

The part that resonated most with me, and probably most people, is seeing his son, Epstein said. It was such a genuine moment. I think everyone whos a parent can relate to that. It was really special, genuine and authentic.

You hate to see him have to walk away sooner rather than later. But if it had to happen, its hard to script it any nicer.

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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