Blackhawks inspired by military heroes at Hockey City Classic

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Blackhawks inspired by military heroes at Hockey City Classic

Bears O-line will benefit from ripple effect whenever Kyle Long returns

Bears O-line will benefit from ripple effect whenever Kyle Long returns

Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long continued doing work on the side of Bears practice on Tuesday. He won’t play Thursday at Cleveland, but he represents a looming one-man shakeup of the offensive line — in a positive way — when he returns from a shoulder injury, presumably next week.

Coach John Fox demurred from saying that Long will be in the lineup when the Bears open the regular season Sept. 11 in Houston.

“We’re anticipating him at least being back out there to get ready for Houston,” was as far as Fox would go on Tuesday.

But Ted Larsen, who has filled in for Long at right guard while Cornelius Edison worked as the No. 1 center, has been taking some snaps at center, a hint that Long might be on course for a return for Houston.

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When that happens, it will effectively improve all three interior-line positions at the same time.

The upgrade at right guard is immediate and obvious. When Long was pressed into an emergency shift to right tackle the week before the opener vs. Green Bay last year, it sent Vlad Ducasse into the starting lineup at Long’s preferred spot. Long now represents an obvious upgrade over Larsen.

Installing Larsen at center, where he went after Hroniss Grasu suffered his season-ending knee injury, upgrades the center position over Edison, who has never played an NFL game.

The third upgrade happens at left guard, where rookie Cody Whitehair has settled in at the job he stepped into when Larsen was out late in the offseason. Whitehair is a rookie; Larsen, who has played center during his career, is better able to help Whitehair than Edison, certainly at this point in the latter’s career.

Why Jake Arrieta almost quit baseball — and what that means for Tommy La Stella

Why Jake Arrieta almost quit baseball — and what that means for Tommy La Stella

There were times Jake Arrieta felt like quitting baseball, wondering if this really was the best way to support his family as he bounced between the Baltimore Orioles and their Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk, Va.

It wasn’t just his dream anymore. Arrieta had to think about a wife (Brittany), a young son (Cooper) and a daughter (Palmer) on the way. He had a business background at Texas Christian University, an inquisitive, engaging personality and enough confidence and connections to launch his next act.

The year after being Baltimore’s Opening Day starter, Arrieta found himself back in Triple-A by late April 2013, the fourth season he spent time on that level.

“We were at a point where I had other things that I could segue into and establish a career elsewhere,” Arrieta said Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of his no-hitter at Dodger Stadium, where the Cubs popped champagne bottles and partied in their onesies, showing the full force of their personalities. “Not that I wanted that to happen, but I didn’t want to continue to go through the things we were going through and moving from place to place in the minor leagues at 25, 26 years old.

“Baseball is something that I’ve loved to do since I was a little kid, but it’s not everything. I had to reevaluate some things. I knew I could always pitch this way, but there were times where it seemed like maybe I wasn’t going to get to that point.

“It’s just part of life that we had to deal with.”

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That big-picture perspective should help Tommy La Stella once he returns to the Wrigley Field clubhouse — possibly as soon as this week when the rosters expand for September — and goes into damage-control mode.

Arrieta has remained in frequent contact with La Stella since the reserve infielder/left-handed pinch-hitter refused to report to Triple-A Iowa in late July, moved back to his home in New Jersey, told ESPN he would consider retirement if he couldn’t play for the big-league Cubs and finally ended his holdout in the middle of August.

“I really care about Tommy,” Arrieta said. “He’s ready to kind of explain to the team what he was going through, because there’s a lot of confusion, rightfully so. But I take the baseball aspect completely out of it and I look at it from just a human-being perspective. I can relate to him on a lot of different levels.

“I know that there were things that he was going through and dealing with (that) we may not agree with and understand.

“But we don’t have to. There are certain things that he’s needed to deal with — and he’s at the point now where he’s willing and able to convey the message to the guys in this clubhouse.

“He can help us win games, so he’s a guy that we definitely need in this clubhouse. He’s ready to address the team — (and) move past it and get back to being a part of the team.”

Arrieta’s late-blooming career is a testament to willpower and perseverance, taking advantage of that change-of-scenery trade to the Cubs in the middle of the 2013 season and evolving into the National League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner.

Even during a season where he has at times struggled to command his fastball and felt out of rhythm, Arrieta is still 16-5 with a 2.84 ERA for the best team in baseball, yet another sign of how much he has grown as a person and as a pitcher.

Going AWOL wasn’t the answer then — and it wasn’t a smart play for La Stella now — but at least Arrieta recognizes those anxieties and insecurities. Maybe that sense of leadership will help smooth over any awkwardness inside a laissez-faire clubhouse known for its late arrival times, loud music and Party Room.

“On a long drive — or when the game’s over, just sitting there thinking about where I see myself in the near future — it wasn’t there,” Arrieta said. “I wasn’t going to just continue to pitch in the minor leagues for another five or six years. If I wasn’t good enough to get the job done, I would move on to somewhere (else) where I was.

“There’s a lot out there other than baseball. But, obviously, this is ultimately where I wanted to be. It was just a point in life where there was some uncertainty there. And you address it, you deal with it and you move past it.”

NFC North: Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater suffers dislocated knee, torn ACL

NFC North: Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater suffers dislocated knee, torn ACL

The Minnesota Vikings announced Tuesday that franchise quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a dislocated knee and torn ACL, likely ending his 2016 season before it began.

Bridgewater suffered the injury during Tuesday's practice, which was cancelled immediately following the non-contact incident. The 23-year-old quarterback was carted off the field and transported to a nearby hospital in an ambulance.

Vikings Director of Sports Medicine and Head Athletic Trainer Eric Sugarman released this statement on Bridgewater:

Teddy Bridgewater suffered a non-contact injury today at practice. The injury was quickly identified as a dislocated knee. The injury was stabilized, and he was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment and evaluation. After undergoing an MRI, it was determined that Teddy suffered a complete tear to his ACL and other structural damage. Fortunately, there appears to be no nerve or arterial damage. Surgical repair will be scheduled within the next few days. Although the recovery time will be significant, we expect Teddy to make a full recovery. I would like to thank all of the medical professionals and our athletic training staff for all of their help today. Teddy has already displayed the attitude needed to overcome this injury and attack his rehab.

Bridgewater, the Vikings' 2014 first-round draft pick, led Minnesota to their first division title since 2009 last season.

In two seasons, Bridgewater is 17-11 with 28 touchdowns, 21 interceptions with 6,150 passing yards and a 87.0 QBR.