Bears

'Tough little guy' Watson out vs. Pacers

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'Tough little guy' Watson out vs. Pacers

Man, hes soft, in my opinion, joked Ronnie Brewer about his teammate and friend, Bulls backup point guard C.J. Watson.

He was being facetious, of course. As concerning as Derrick Roses back and turf-toe injuries were and as much as Luol Dengs decision to not have surgery on torn ligaments on his left wrist is laudable, neither of the Bulls two All-Stars have anything on Watson.

A gruesome elbow injurysuffered diving for a loose ball, no lesshere, a concussion there and Sunday night in Philadelphia, a sprained left ankle. Watson battled through the pain to return to the game and be a significant contributor to the Bulls second-half comeback.

It was tough. I was in a lot of pain and tried to go out there, be aggressive and try to help the team out in any kind of way, and say solid on defense, Watson said afterwards. Its still in a lot of pain. Im just trying to get through it and see how it feels Monday.

I just went to contest a shot and I came down on his ankle, he continued, describing the injury. I was in a lot of pain and tried to tape it up, see if I could push off and put a little weight on it.

For once, however, Watson wont be able to fight through it.

Hes out, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, prior to Mondays home game against Indiana. He had swelling today, so were going to sit him out.

Thibodeau is a big admirer of Watsons fortitude, referring to him as a tough little guy after he dislocated his elbow in the New Years Day home opener.

Come on, you guys see him. Hes as tough as they come. Went in, got taped up, back out there, said Thibodeau. I was expecting him out there.

Added Brewer: This seasons been a grind and guys have bumps and bruises, and something about these players on our team that find a way to get treatment and play hard every game, especially C.J.

He puts it all on the line, night in and night out. If hes hurt60, 70, 80 percenthes still going to come in and give it everything hes got, and you respect a player like that, who continues to play through injuries, to be out there and fight with your teammates.

Luol Deng concurred: C.J.s tough and hes going to take tough, big shots for us, like he did tonight. Hes playing with a lot of injuries and he keeps coming back. Hes not complaining about it, he never mentions it and we know some days hes out there struggling, but he gives us whatever hes got.

As for the modest Watson, his formula for playing through pain is a simple one.

Just staying positive. Theres going to be injuries in basketball, but just try to fight through it, determine whats injury and whats pain, then go from there, he explained. I think we all do in some sort of way, so just try to fight through it and get through the game.

QB Power Rankings: Brady and Rodgers stay on-brand

QB Power Rankings: Brady and Rodgers stay on-brand

A game-winning drive against the 5-0 Chiefs on Sunday night. A game-winning, coach's-job-saving drive against the 49ers on Monday night. 

The more things change, the more things stay the same. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers continue to crush souls. Blake Bortles continues to inspire memes. New York's love-hate relationship with Eli Manning trudges on. 

How did your team's QB fare on this week's version of QB Power Rankings? 

You can find out right here. 

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

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USA TODAY

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

The wait is almost over.

After missing nearly 10 months with a concussion, Corey Crawford said he expects to start on Thursday when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center. An official decision will come following the team's morning skate.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. ... It was a pretty long process. But I think the most important thing was not to rush anything. When I finally was out, it got to a point where I wasn’t in shape to play and it was time to rest and it’s unfortunate it took a lot longer than I would’ve liked. 

"It’s been long, but finally, just to get back and be practicing with the team has meant a lot. It’s good to get to this point now when you’re really close to playing. Practices have been great, been getting timing a little bit more and getting up to speed and reading shots and all that, so it'll be nice to finally get in one."

Crawford's last appearance in an NHL game was Dec. 23, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils when he allowed three goals on seven shots in 13:22 of action before getting pulled. So of course, emotions will naturally be running high, especially in front of the hometown crowd.

"I'm sure I'll be a little anxious getting into it," Crawford said. "Some nerves. But we'll see. We'll wait until the morning, but I'm definitely excited I can tell you that."

It's obviously terrific news for the Blackhawks, who have picked up eight out of a possible 10 points to start the season and are getting their two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie back between the pipes. It's been a long time coming, and Crawford is coming back into a healthy situation where the Blackhawks are in a good spot in the standings.

"It's great news, I'm sure it'll be exciting for him exciting for our team, exciting for our fans and the organization as well," Patrick Kane said. "It’s probably a good situation all around. Cam [Ward] has done a great job of playing in the net so far. Crow is really good in practice right now, so I’m sure he’s itching to get back, too. We’ve had a good start here. It’s something we want to keep going, and I’m sure him coming back on home ice, in front of our crowd, will be a fun one for him and for our team."

There's no doubting how important Crawford is the team and organization. While there may be a little bit of rust early on, the Blackhawks are expecting him to look like his old self.

"He means a lot to the team," Quenneville said. "We felt last year was a good example of how important he was and how well he was playing for us, as well. We’ve gotten off to a decent start and he was a big factor in it. We know that goaltending is such a big part of the team and your success a lot of nights depends on him and his consistency’s always been in place.

"But he looks good in the net. He’s been off for a long, long time. Is there rust? Do we expect rust? I think the way he’s competing and practicing and finding pucks, he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. So we’re looking forward to him getting in there and getting comfortable and how he’s feeling going forward will dictate a lot of the decisions about him going back in."