Veterans' absences Thursday create opportunities elsewhere


Veterans' absences Thursday create opportunities elsewhere

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Linebacker Brian Urlacher was excused from practice again on Tuesday for personal reasons while receiverreturner Devin Hester was out with sickness, according to coach Lovie Smith. Neither is expected to play on Thursday against the Denver Broncos.

Receiver Eric Weems (ankle) was dressed for practice but did not take an active part in basically a half-speed session without pads for the first time in a week.

The absence of veterans (several others are expected to see little or no playing time on Thursday) is an opportunity for roster hopefuls under game conditions. Daily practices the past several days have concluded with live hitting between reserve offenses and defenses, but this will be different. Far different.

Just getting guys into the game, in a game situation, said coach Lovie Smith. Even for the veterans, were starting over a new year. Everybody for the most part will play a little bit.

We havent decided exactly how many reps everyone will get. We just want to keep the evaluations going. We have some tough decisions to make on the 53-man roster, on who starts, all of those things. Thats what were looking for.

Many happy returns?

Hesters absence plus concern over Weems ankle will allow the Bears to get closer looks at returners among a number of roster candidates who need strong special-teams showings to secure jobs.

Among those in particular to watch are seventh-round draft choice and cornerback Greg McCoy and undrafted free agent receiver Brittan Golden. The latters best shot, given the depth at receiver on the Bears, may lie with another NFL team eventually but he has made a strong early impression.

Hes fast. Well get a look at him as a returner, may get punt returns, but definitely kick returns, said special-teams coordinator Dave Toub. Hes still working on his catching skills. But hes pretty exciting after the catch. He can run.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit. 

Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini. 

The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.

The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.

Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.

Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.

Mitch Trubisky jersey sales trending in right direction

Mitch Trubisky jersey sales trending in right direction

Positive press about the Chicago Bears' offseason is having a strong impact on the jersey sales for the team's highest-profile player, Mitch Trubisky.

According to Dick's Sporting Goods, Trubisky's No. 10 is the fifth-most popular jersey among offensive players over the last 30 days. He's No. 6 among all players, regardless of position.

The Bears' offseason has been full of superlatives since their aggressive approach to free agency. The signings of Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel put the spotlight on Trubisky and the potentially surging passing game. The second-round selection of Anthony Miller and word of Kevin White's offseason emergence has turned positive momentum into higher-than-anticipated expectations for Trubisky this season.

For Chicago to have any chance at meeting those expectations, Trubisky, who's entering his first full season as a starter with a new head coach and offensive system, has to thrive. Fans must be confident that he will, considering the investment they're making in his jersey.

Trubisky ended his rookie season with four wins in 12 starts, throwing for 2,193 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He completed 59.4 percent of his passes. He should have a much more productive season in 2018 with his new arsenal of skill players and an innovative coaching staff, led by coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.