Bears

An update on Sidney Crosby's injury status

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An update on Sidney Crosby's injury status

From Comcast SportsNetPITTSBURGH (AP) -- Sidney Crosby's concussion-like symptoms may not be due to a concussion after all. The Pittsburgh Penguins star said Tuesday he's been diagnosed with a soft-tissue injury in his neck that mimics the symptoms of a concussion but is significantly more treatable. "There's a pretty big possibility that I could be causing some of the issues and I hope that's the case," Crosby said. "I hope that it'll improve and that's hopefully the end of it." Crosby and Penguins owner Mario Lemieux met with spinal trauma expert Dr. Alexander Vaccaro in Philadelphia on Monday to review a series of recent tests on the 2009 NHL MVP. Vaccaro determined an MRI and CAT scan indicated no evidence of a fracture in Crosby's neck -- as had been rumored during All-Star weekend -- instead confirming a California doctor's diagnosis that Crosby is dealing with a soft-tissue injury. The news came as a bit of relief to Crosby, who hasn't played since symptoms resurfaced following a loss to Boston on Dec. 5. He missed more than 10 months last year after taking head shots in consecutive games in January, 2011. He returned on Nov. 21 and scored 12 points in eight games before going back on the injured list. The tests could not determine when exactly the neck occurred. "It's hard to pinpoint when this could have happened, whether this was an existing injury or it happened in one of the games in which he came back," general manager Ray Shero said. Frustrated by his slow progress, Crosby traveled to Los Angeles last week to visit noted spine specialist Dr. Robert S. Bray, who examined Crosby and treated him with an injection to alleviate swelling in the neck. Bray will oversee Crosby's progression with therapists while Crosby will continue to work closely with the Pittsburgh medical staff. He declined speculation of a rift between his camp and team physicians. "There's not a lot of answers with this stuff," Crosby said. "They've been more than encouraging when going out and seeking other opinions." The team called the injury "treatable," adding Crosby will return when he's symptom-free. Crosby skated with fellow injured teammates Jordan Staal and Simon Despres on Tuesday morning, though coach Dan Bylsma has stressed Crosby is nowhere close to being cleared for contact. Crosby also met with chiropractic neurologist Dr. Ted Carrick in Atlanta earlier this month to deal with lingering motion issues, saying he was "happy" with his response to Carrick's treatment. Just not enough to put any sort of timetable on a return, though he's hopeful the shot he received from Bray will not be required on a regular basis. "It's something I'd rather not have to do to be honest with you," Crosby said. "I'd rather get work done here." Crosby was vague on specific treatment but will focus on keeping his neck loose to help get rid of inflammation. Though he's skating, he claims he's "not where he wants to be." His plan remains to play whenever his body lets him, which could be sometime before the season ends. The Penguins are just as optimistic. "There has never been any indication from any doctor over the last year that he'd have to shut it down for the season, that he'd have to retire," Shero said. "We're going to find a way to get a handle on this and get him back on the ice as safely and quickly as possible."

Bears could develop 'twin towers' personnel package at WR with Robinson, White

Bears could develop 'twin towers' personnel package at WR with Robinson, White

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Coaches are loath to give away competitive information, which can cover just about anything from play design to flavor of Gatorade dispensed by the training staff. But Matt Nagy offered an intriguing what-if personnel grouping that his offense could confront defenses with in 2018. It’s one that has been overlooked so far, for a variety of reasons.

The what-if personnel pairing is Allen Robinson and Kevin White as the outside receivers, a tandem that would put two 6-foot-3 wide receivers at the disposal of quarterback Mitch Trubisky. The Bears have not had a tandem of effective big receivers since Alshon Jeffery (6-3) and Brandon Marshall (6-4) averaged a combined 159 catches per year from 2012-14.

White’s injury history has relegated him to found-money status in many evaluations, and he has typically been running at Robinson’s spot while the latter was rehabbing this offseason from season-ending knee injury.

But Nagy on Wednesday cited Robinson’s ability to play multiple positions and clearly raised the prospect of his two of his biggest receivers being on the field at the same time.

“The one thing you’ll see here in this offense is that we have guys all over the place in different spots,” said Nagy, who credited GM Ryan Pace with stocking the roster with options at wide receiver. “Ryan did a great job of looking at these certain free agents that we went after, some of these draft picks that we went after and getting guys that are football smart, they have a high football IQ and they’re able to play multiple positions.

“When you can do that, that helps you out as an offensive playcaller to be able to move guys around. Is it going to happen to every single receiver that comes into this offense? No. But we do a pretty job I feel like at balancing of where they’re at position wise, what they can and can’t handle, and then we try to fit them into the process.”

The organization and locker room can be excused for a collective breath-holding on White, who has gone through his third straight positive offseason but whose last two seasons ended abruptly with injuries in the fourth and first games of the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

White was leading the Bears in with 19 receptions through less than four full games in 2016, then was lost with a fractured fibula suffered against Detroit. The injury was all the crueler coming in a game in which White already had been targeted nine times in 41 snaps and had caught six of those Brian Hoyer passes.

White’s roster status has been open to some question with the signings of Robinson and Taylor Gabriel together with the drafting of Anthony Miller. All represent bigger deep threats in terms of average yards per catch than White (9.2 ypc.) at this point: Robinson, 14.1.; Gabriel, 15.1; and Miller, 13.8 (college stats).

But Trubisky’s budding chemistry with White was evident throughout the offseason. And the second-year quarterback has studied what Robinson has been and seen some of what he can be.

“We know he has great hands, he’ll go up and get it,” Trubisky said. “Explosive route-runner. The more reps we get, it’s all about repetitions for us, continue to build that chemistry. Just going against our great defense in practice is going to allow us to compete and get better.”

Folding in the expectations for an expanded presence at tight end (Trey Burton), “targets” will be spread around the offense. How often the Bears go with a Robinson-White “twin towers” look clearly depends in large measure on White’s improvement as well as his availability.

Opportunities will be there. The Kansas City Chiefs ran 51 percent of their 2018 snaps, with Nagy as offensive coordinator, in “11” personnel (one back, one tight end, three receivers, according to Pro Football Focus. Whether White earns his way into that core nickel-wideout package opposite Robinson is part of what training camp and preseason will determine.

“[White] has had a good offseason and just like our team, he needs to carry that momentum into camp,” Pace said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now, he’s very focused. The real expectation, just be the best he can be. Focus on himself, which is what he’s been doing.”

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

The Cubs didn't wait long to make Joe Maddon's words come true.

Roughly 5 hours after Maddon said the Cubs are definitely in the market for more pitching, the front office went out and acquired Jesse Chavez, a journeyman jack-of-all-trades type.

It's a minor move, not in the realm of Zach Britton or any of the other top relievers on the market.

But the Cubs only had to part with pitcher Class-A pitcher Tyler Thomas, their 7th-round draft pick from last summer who was pitching out of the South Bend rotation as a 22-year-old.

Chavez — who turns 35 in a month — brings over a vast array of big-league experience, with 799 innings under his belt. He's made 70 starts, 313 appearances as a reliever and even has 3 saves, including one this season for the Texas Rangers.

Chavez is currently 3-1 with a 3.51 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. He has a career 4.61 ERA and 1.38 WHIP while pitching for the Pirates, Braves, Royals, Blue Jays, A's, Dodgers, Angels and Rangers before coming to Chicago.

Of his 30 appearances this season, Chavez has worked multiple innings 18 times and can serve as a perfect right-handed swingman in the Cubs bullpen, filling the role previously occupied by Luke Farrell and Eddie Butler earlier in the season.

Chavez had a pretty solid run as a swingman in Oakland from 2013-15, making 47 starts and 50 appearances as a reliever, pitching to a 3.85 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 across 360.1 innings.

"Good arm, versatile, could start and relieve," Joe Maddon said Thursday after the trade. "I've watched him. I know he had some great runs with different teams. 

"The word that comes to mind is verstaility. You could either start him or put him in the bullpen and he's very good in both arenas."

It's not a flasy move, but a valuable piece to give the Cubs depth down the stretch.

There's no way the Cubs are done after this one trade with nearly two weeks left until the deadline. There are more moves coming from this front office, right?

"Oh yeah," Maddon said. "I don't think that's gonna be the end of it. They enjoy it too much."