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New Bears coach Trestman eager to work with Cutler

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New Bears coach Trestman eager to work with Cutler

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Marc Trestman had it all mapped out, right up to the Chicago Bears' championship parade. It was there on the calendar.

In his first interview for their head coaching job, he had every day for the next 13 months filled in, detailing step by step how the Bears would get to the Super Bowl.

``He had every day accounted for, every time slot accounted for, every meeting accounted for,'' general manager Phil Emery said.

``Not only that, but he had included the provisions of our (collective bargaining agreement) in the states, which takes a nuclear scientist to figure out exactly what you can do. He had called so many people, his friends in the league, he knew all the parameters of the CBA.''

Now that he's been hired, Trestman can implement his plan.

He said the Bears' job is one of the best in sports and he can't wait to work with quarterback Jay Cutler.

``This is clearly a franchise that has the highest expectations for its team, where winning consistently is a standard,'' Trestman said Thursday at his introductory news conference.

He wasn't trying to be presumptuous or make any championship guarantees with that calendar. He was simply trying to make a point.

``It's a symbolic word, but the goal is the parade, right?'' Trestman said. ``How are we going to get there? If you don't know where you're going, how can you plan how to get there? That was my point to Phil. We have to fill in each day because they're all important to getting to that point.''

He sees a big opportunity in working with Cutler, a strong-armed and mobile quarterback whose talent has never been in question even as the results haven't always reflected that.

``I can't wait to get my hands on him,'' he said.

Getting the most out of Cutler would go a long way toward invigorating a stagnant offense and getting the Bears to the playoffs on a consistent basis after they missed the postseason for the fifth time in six years. Those issues led to Lovie Smith's firing, and the Bears turned to Trestman this week after an extensive search.

He spent the past five seasons coaching the CFL's Montreal Alouettes, leading them to two championships, and was a longtime NFL assistant who was known for his work with quarterbacks.

``Marc has a quietness to him, a quiet confidence, high level of intellect, those are attractive qualities,'' Emery said. ``The thing that was most remarkable that came out of his interviews and when discussing to people who Marc is was there is a heck of a football coach under all that quietness and confidence and intellect.

``Do not underestimate Marc Trestman as a competitor. He's as tough-minded and football-oriented than anybody I've been around in 31 years in this game.''

Emery confirmed Trestman beat out offensive coordinators Bruce Arians of Indianapolis and Seattle's Darrell Bevell for the job. All three were brought back for second interviews, and Bevell was the first eliminated from that group because he lacked head coaching experience.

Emery cited Trestman's flexibility and success at various stops in the NFL and CFL.

He was an offensive coordinator with Cleveland, San Francisco, Arizona and Oakland. He worked with Bernie Kosar as an assistant at the University of Miami and again when he was on the Browns' staff in the 1980s. Trestman helped the Raiders reach the Super Bowl at the end of the 2002 season with an offense he geared for Rich Gannon, the league's MVP that year.

One of Trestman's most immediate tasks will be to build a connection with Cutler. They actually spent time together for a few days in North Carolina when the quarterback was coming out of Vanderbilt in 2006.

Trestman, who in recent years worked as an NFL consultant and helped QBs entering the league, was asked about that.

``I had the chance to meet with Jay 10 years ago in a hotel room in Raleigh, N.C.,'' he said. ``It was raining. We had no facility, we had no receivers. So we basically sat in a room for two days and stared at each other. It was a difficult environment to try to get the most out of somebody. When I sat with him, I found out he had some very core capabilities. He was tough, he was smart, and he loved football. I had the opportunity to meet with him a couple days ago. He's a different guy. He's in tune to where he is and where he wants to go.''

Does he see Cutler as a franchise quarterback? Trestman sidestepped the question.

He said Cutler ``loves football'' and ``wants to do everything he can to help this franchise.'' He added they'll work with a ``sense of urgency to get him to be the guy that he wants to be and we want him to be.'' But he did not use that term - franchise quarterback.

``He wants Jay to earn that in his eyes,'' said Emery, who has called Cutler a franchise QB. ``That's OK, I'm good with that.''

Cutler has one year left on his contract, and the Bears have to decide if he can lead them to the top. Since he arrived in Chicago in 2009, he's taken a beating behind a struggling offensive line and lacked a go-to receiver until Brandon Marshall arrived this season.

He'll also be working in his fourth system with the Bears, with Trestman calling the plays and Aaron Kromer hired from New Orleans to replace Mike Tice as offensive coordinator and serve as line coach.

The Bears also brought in Joe DeCamillis from Dallas to replace Dave Toub as special teams coordinator. Now, they're looking for a new defensive coordinator to replace Rod Marinelli after he decided not to return.

They also announced Thursday night that they were letting Tice, Bob Babich (linebackers), Jeremy Bates (quarterbacks), Mike DeBord (tight ends), Darryl Drake (receivers), Tim Holt (offensive line) and Tim Spencer (running backs) go.

On defense, it's not clear if the Bears will switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 formation. Trestman is open to change, but he also realizes the Bears' defense ranked among the league's best this past season.

``They have excellent football players and they've been well-coached,'' Trestman said. ``I don't know the personnel on our football team right now. So to answer the question is premature. If you ask me 3-4 months from now, I'll be in a much better position to answer that question.''

Another issue on defense: Brian Urlacher's future. The eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker has an expiring contract and missed the last four games with a hamstring injury after being limited by a knee problem.

``This guy's been a great player for this team,'' Trestman said. ``I recognize, certainly, what he's meant to this locker room and to the fan base of Chicago. When we get done here, we'll begin to try to answer some of those questions.''

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Tom Wilson’s suspension reduced to 14 games by neutral arbitrator

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USA TODAY Sports

Tom Wilson’s suspension reduced to 14 games by neutral arbitrator

Tom Wilson’s 20-game suspension has been reduced to 14 games by a neutral arbitrator meaning he is eligible to return as early as Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild. Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the arbitrator’s decision.

Wilson was suspended 20 games for a hit to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in the preseason. The suspension was announced on Oct. 3 and upheld by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Wilson’s first appeal.

Though the second appeal was technically successful in getting the suspension reduced, the lengthy process ended up costing him an extra two games as the Caps are already 16 games into the season. The good news for him is that he will recoup $378,048.78 of the over $1.2 million he was originally due to forfeit as a result of the suspension.

This marks the second suspension that Shyam Das, the neutral arbitrator, has reduced this season. Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson was suspended 27 games for domestic assault, but had his suspension reduced to 18 games after taking his appeal to the neutral arbitrator.

Tuesday’s ruling may mark the end of Wilson’s suspension and of the appeals process, but it hardly marks the end of the entire saga and controversy surrounding Wilson and his style of play. A 14-game suspension is still significant and should not be seen as vindication that Wilson did nothing wrong in the eyes of the league.

If there is another suspension, it will be longer and neither Wilson nor the Caps can afford for that to happen. Wilson still must change the way he plays or everyone is going to end up going through this entire process again and nobody wants that.

The Caps will have a morning skate at 12:30 p.m. ET which should provide more clarity on whether Todd Reirden intends to play Wilson immediately and where he could slot into the lineup.

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What do the Capitals do with Jakub Vrana?

What do the Capitals do with Jakub Vrana?

You don’t have to watch Jakub Vrana very long to realize just how talented he is. Unfortunately for him, you also don’t have to watch very long to realize how turnover prone he can be as well.

Carelessness with puck management has been one of the glaring issues for the Caps in the early season and Vrana, as he has been for much of his young career, is certainly guilty of that.

Vrana’s combination of talent and penchant for on-ice mistakes presents a problem for head coach Todd Reirden as he has to find the right place plug him into the lineup. That challenge has thus far proven difficult.

Vrana entered the Nov. 3 game against the Dallas Stars on the top line.  After a minus-three game and a turnover in overtime that led to Dallas’ game-winning goal, he found himself on the fourth line the very next game with barely eight minutes of ice time.

“We'll continue to try to remove those glaring turnovers or defense mistakes from his game,” Reirden said recently. “I think it's something that has improved compared to prior years which is why he spent the majority of the time up with those top-six guys, but it's sometimes good for a reset with some of the bottom-six guys and then start slotting him back in.”

At 22-years-old, mistakes on the ice are to be expected. But Vrana may take that to the extreme.

Not only does Vrana commit a lot of careless turnovers, he is also guilty of taking far too many penalties. Vrana ranks third on the team with 14 penalty minutes.

Mistakes by a forward are not nearly as glaring to a coach as those by a defensemen considering the mistakes tend to happen in the offensive zone and are less likely to result in a goal for the other team. When those offensive zone mistakes lead to offensive zone penalties, however, that’s a different story.

But Vrana is simply too skilled to bury in the lineup or take out altogether. With four even-strength goals, Vrana is tied for the third-most on the team behind only T.J. Oshie (7) and Alex Ovechkin (6). Of all the forwards Reirden has cycled into the top line in Tom Wilson’s absence to play with Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Vrana was the player who seemed to fit the best. He does not provide the same sort of defensive balance to the top line as Wilson does, but no one has been able to step in and adequately fill Wilson’s spot thus far. Vrana added an extra element of speed and offensive skill to an already dangerous line and seemed to show chemistry with Kuznetsov especially.

“There's some really good things that he's showing,” Reirden said. “The speed he plays with, the release of his shot, the chances he's getting, you've got to try to find ways to get him out there more.”

But Wilson will soon return to fill his top line role and Reirden will soon get his full lineup for the first time this season. Yet, almost a quarter into the season Vrana still makes it hard to find the right spot for him.

Putting Vrana on a line with Nicklas Backstrom and Oshie – if Reirden reunites Ovechkin and Kuznetsov – seems like the best fit. Backstrom and Oshie can make up for Vrana’s defensive issues and Vrana can provide speed on an otherwise slower line.

But at some point, Vrana has to cut back on the turnovers and the penalties.

“You've got to continue to show him,” Reirden said. “Continue to show him, continue to `remind him, continue to teach and help him grow and get better. That's a young player trying to become a top-six full time.”

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