49ers: Smith out, Kaepernick in


49ers: Smith out, Kaepernick in

The Bears' chances to win tonight seem to have improved with word that Alex Smith could not get the final thumbs-up from neurologists to start tonight's matchup at Candlestick Park as he recovers from a concussion he sustained eight days ago.

So as this becomes the Campbell-Kaepernick quarterback matchup as Jay Cutler also recuperates from the same injury suffered last Sunday, the Bears' defense faces a younger, less patient signal-caller on the other side of the ball. While Colin Kaepernick has yet to throw an interception in 26 attempts this season, he figures to get rattled a little more than Smith, who's thrown just 10 picks since the start of the 2011 season.

Matter of fact, Smith had a stretch of 249 attempts without a pick spanning from last Nov. 24, 2011-Sept. 23. Kaepernick, on the other hand, is the team's third-leading rusher (177 yards on 21 attempts). While the only quarterback close to Kaepernick's tuck-it-and-run style the defense has faced this season is Cam Newton (who really didn't in the Bears' one-point win), safe to say they'll take that over the gradual maturity Smith has shown over the past two seasons.

As a team, San Francisco's turned the ball over just nine times since Dec. 1, something the Bears and their NFL-leading 30 takeaways need to disrupt. If they accomplish that, the bigger question becomes if the struggling offense can make it pay off behind Jason Campbell. If it's successful in doing so, and consistently against the kind of defense that stacks up against the Bears, rushing Cutler's return becomes less important and blogs and talk shows will begin an entirely new debate.

But first things first: Campbell, Mike Tice, and the rest of the offense have to outsmart and outbattle an outstanding unit led by a scary linebacking corps (Aldon Smith's 9 12 sacks rank second in the NFC). The Niners' defense doesn't seem to let its offense's turnovers rattle it either, allowing just 16 points the nine times they have coughed the ball up. But the Vikings, Giants and Rams have figured out enough ways to beat (or tie) them. Let's see if these Bears can.

Since the win there in that glorious 1985 season, the Bears have made seven trips to San Francisco and been outscored 239-42. They'll be happy to get out of there one point better tonight, and keep their one game lead in the division over Green Bay.

Tune into Comcast SportsNet at 4:30 p.m. to preview the game live on "United Bears Recap". Then, flip over to us immediately after the Bears-49ers game goes final for "Chevy Dealers' Bears Postgame Live." I'll be joined by Dan Jiggetts, Jim Miller and Hunter Hillenmeyer to break down the game for 90 minutes, take you live to postgame press conferences and locker room interviews with Kip Lewis, more analysis from John Mullin and share your reaction via Twitter using hashtag BearsTalk

Morning Update: Bulls win season opener; World Series returns to Wrigley

Morning Update: Bulls win season opener; World Series returns to Wrigley

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Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

College teammates Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder made plans to go to dinner after Thursday’s game in Chicago but for a few short moments they weren’t just competitors but unexpected combatants, getting tangled up in the second quarter.

There looked to be some harsh words exchanged after Butler took a charge on an unsuspecting Crowder near three-quarter court, with Crowder putting the basketball in Butler’s chest while Butler was still on the floor, causing players on both teams to convene for some tense moments.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas got involved and then before Butler could blink, Bulls guard Rajon Rondo joined the proceedings, as pushing and shoving ensued before technical fouls were assessed to both teams after an officials’ review.

If one wondered whether these Bulls—a team that touts itself as young with so many players having three years or less professional experience—could play with some bark and bite, perhaps the season opener provided a bit of a positive preview for the next 81 games.

Nearby, an unbothered Dwyane Wade took a practice 3-point shot, much to the delight of the United Center crowd, as observers witnessed the first sign of tangible proof the Bulls have intentions on regaining a bit of an edge on the floor.

Wade joked and took it as a sign of respect between the two teams.

“It looked like it, right? Yeah. It was a little something out there,” said Wade when asked if there was some chippy play. “Every time we play them it’s gonna be like that. Two teams finding their way in the Eastern Conference. We know we gotta see each other a lot. They never give up. They can be down 30 with 15 seconds left and they’re still gonna fight.”

The Bulls have externally preached toughness from the start of camp. Although Wade didn’t participate in that meeting of the minds, he isn’t exactly running away from such matters.
And Rajon Rondo is competitively ornery enough to have his voice hard no matter the setting.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It’s been a big theme of practice,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We want to play with physicality and toughness. I think it was evident on the glass tonight.”

Yes, the Bulls outrebounded the Celtics by 19, but that could’ve been a by-product of the Bulls’ crashing the offensive glass on a porous shooting night. And yes, the slightly tense moment between Butler and Crowder probably won’t be an expected occurrence.

But when’s the last time one had multiple examples to dissect to discern this team’s level of toughness—or lack thereof.

“That’s something to show that the guys are out there fighting for each other,” Hoiberg said. “That they were playing with an edge. It happens with this game. You have to be competitive.”

Competition boiled over slightly, but considering the NBA isn’t exactly UFC, one doesn’t have to do much to display a little physical resolve.

“The fact that nothing escalated was good,” Hoiberg said. “The fact that those guys are out there and playing for each other and have each other’s back, that’s a huge thing right now.”

Too many times last season, it seemed the Bulls would submit in situations like those. Not that they were particularly soft, but it didn’t appear they had the collective will to fight for one another if an altercation arose.

Half the time, they looked like they could barely stand to be in the room with each other.

“It’s people’s will to win. Not saying a bad thing about anybody from last year,” Butler said. “To tell you the truth, I study the game and put in a lot of work but Rondo studies the game a lot. Every time I’m in the gym, he’s in the gym. That lets me know, these (dudes) are going to war with you. Every day. When I hit that deck, Rondo was right there. I wanna play with guys that’s gonna play hard, that’s gonna fight.”

And it didn’t take long for Butler to realize he has at least a couple teammates willing to jump in the foxhole with him.