Illini hope bye week helps team say goodbye to the blues

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Illini hope bye week helps team say goodbye to the blues

CHAMPAIGN How do you put a calendar year without a Big Ten win out of your mind? According to Illinois head coach Tim Beckman you own the day.

At his press conference on Monday, Beckman said the emphasis for his team going forward was to play like champions each Saturday, regardless of the results from past Saturdays.

Those last games are done. We have five games in front of us, he said. Were taking it one day at a time. We talked about challenging this football team to own the day which means, basically, do everything to win that day.

Having a bye week last week, after losing 45-0 at Michigan on Oct. 13, was very beneficial to the team, Beckman said. Illinois (2-5, 0-3) got three extra practices in during their off week, giving the team extra time to work on areas where they have struggled in their last four games all losses.

The Illini did more than just run drills, however. One of the most important things the team did during its break, according to Beckman, was self-evaluate.

The bye week is not really a week off, its a chance to evaluate the things weve done, the Illinois coach said. Its an opportunity for our players to evaluate the way theyve played. Coaches to evaluate the way theyve coached.

This aspect of the bye week was very important to linebacker Jonathan Brown. He said the extra communication between the players and coaches was invaluable.

Losing at Arizona State in week two gave us a blow. I dont think we lost confidence but it was step back. Having the same problem week-in and week-out it compounded to where we finally were like, We gotta change something, Brown said. Everybody is on the same page this week. Coaches, players, training staff were moving forward. There was a lack of communication going on, but thats something we fixed and got better at.

The Illini also got better in a more literal sense during the bye week. A week with no competition gave the team the opportunity to get injured players back to full health or close to full health.

Senior defensive back Terry Hawthorne, who sat out the Michigan game, and junior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who was pulled from the Michigan game, are both back to full go status according to Beckman. The rest week gave the players a chance to relax, nurse their injuries and regain strength.

The bye week came at a good time to get guys healthy, Beckman said. For all these guys, including guys who havent played that much who might not have been startersits good we had the opportunity to get these guys healthy.

Some players, like Brown, have been playing through pain. Having the chance to get him closer to full health is something Beckman hopes will boost the defense when Illinois returns to the field. Brown feels certain he can give his best when Indiana comes to town on Saturday.

I was able to sit back and let my body recuperate a good week of relaxing. It was definitely a positive for us, he said.

Illinois will need a full complement of healthy players on Saturday because Indiana, despite being winless in the Big Ten, has shown the ability to battle with some of the conferences best teams. In three Big Ten games against Northwestern, Michigan State and Ohio State, the Hoosiers have scored at least 27 points and lost by an average of just over seven points.

Indiana has found success with a quick offense that allows opponents little time to make adjustments between plays. The Illinois players feel ready for the speedy Hoosiers, bolstered by a week off and earlier games against other fast-paced offenses like ASU and Louisiana Tech.

Practice this week has been extremely fast. Coach doesnt move the ball from one hash to the other and he has two different groups running to the ball, back-and-forth. We have to run and call the play at the same time were trying to get into our formations as we get on the field, defensive back Ashante Williams said.

That preparation for the speed of Indiana combined with the Homecoming tradition at Illinois has the players very fired up for Saturdays game and not looking past the Hoosiers. For the Illini, all that matters is owning the day.

Kickoff for Saturdays game is scheduled for noon at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.

MLB releases postseason shares for Cubs

MLB releases postseason shares for Cubs

The Cubs' postseason shares were released Tuesday afternoon amid the craziness of the White Sox-Red Sox Chris Sale deal.

Fresh off a World Series win, the Cubs handed out 66 full playoff shares, worth $368,871.59 each. The organization also dealt 8.7 partial shares and four cash awards.

As champs, the Cubs received a share of $27,586,017.75 of the players' pool, which is formed from 50 percent of the gate receipts from the American League and National League wild card games and then 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first three games of the Division Series, the first four contests of the League Championship Series and first four games of the World Series.

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The 2016 players' pool set a new record at $76,627,827.09, up from the 2015 total of just under $70 million.

2015 champion Kansas City Royals received share amounts of just over $370,000 last season, split into 58 shares.

The Cleveland Indians received more than $18 million from the 2016 players pool.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays — runners up in the LCS — tallied more than $9 million from the players' pool.

CSN to chronicle Bears vs Packers rivalry on next installment of Bears Classics

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CSN to chronicle Bears vs Packers rivalry on next installment of Bears Classics

‘Bears Classics’ presented by Xfinity to debut Tuesday, December 13 at 9:00 PM CT -- Exclusively on CSN

Narrated by Chicago Bears/Pro Football Hall of Fame legend DICK BUTKUS

Chicago, IL (December 6, 2016) – CSN Chicago and the Chicago Bears will debut a brand new installment of its partnered Bears Classics presented by Xfinity Emmy award-winning documentary series when the network will chronicle the history of pro football’s longest and, without question, fiercest rivalry: the Chicago Bears vs. the Green Bay Packers.

Debuting Tuesday, December 13 at 9:00 PM CT exclusively on CSN, Bears Classics will reflect back to the conflict that began in 1921 when the National Football League's charter franchise, the Chicago Bears, met an independent team that joined the league that year, the Packers from Green Bay, Wisconsin.  With more than 1300 NFL games played for each franchise, the win-loss records are nearly even as the Bears hold an overall advantage, while the Packers lead in total championships (13-9).  From the big city on Lake Michigan to the small town some 200 miles north, the Bears & Packers continue to make their mark as combatants in pro football's oldest rivalry.  

This special edition of CSN’s Emmy-winning Bears Classics documentary series, subtitled The Longest War - Bears versus Packers, will once again be narrated by Chicago Bears legend/Pro Football Hall of Famer Dick Butkus.  Butkus played for the Bears from 1965-1973 and is credited for redefining the middle linebacker position.  He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.  CSN’s Sarah Lauch is the Executive Producer of Bears Classics, Willie Parker is the Producer, and Kevin Cross is the network’s Senior Director of News & Original Content.

In addition to the documentary narration by Butkus, among the numerous players/media/execs interviewed in this edition of Bears Classics include exclusive interviews with the following individuals:

GALE SAYERS

Bears Halfback (1965-71)

MIKE DITKA

Bears Tight End (1961-76); Bears Head Coach (1982-92)

BRIAN URLACHER

Bears Linebacker (2000-12)

LANCE BRIGGS

Bears Linebacker (2003-14)

DAN HAMPTON

Bears Defensive End/Tackle (1979-90)

GEORGE MCCASKEY

Bears Chairman

LOVIE SMITH

Bears Head Coach (2004-12)

JIM MILLER

Bears Quarterback (1999-2002)

DENNIS McKINNON

Bears Wide Receiver (1983-89)

BRETT FAVRE

Packers Quarterback (1992-2007)

AARON RODGERS

Packers Quarterback (2005-present)

JERRY KRAMER

Packers Right Guard (1958-68)

JAMES LOFTON

Packers Wide Receiver (1978-86)

Please note the following quotes from CSN’s premiere airing of Bears Classics: The Longest War - Bears versus Packers, debuting Tuesday, December 13 at 9:00 PM CT:

MIKE DITKA (on the Bears-Packers rivalry): "It was a war based on respect. I never disliked them. I would say they had something we wanted because they had a better team and had championships, and we finally did get one.”

BRETT FAVRE (on Bears & Packers Hall of Famers): "I was talking and said 'surely, the Packers have the most Hall of Fame members.’ Well, we're four short; it's the Bears that have more. So we still have a few more to go...says a lot about the Bears.”

BRIAN URLACHER (on playing against Packers QBs Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers): "Aaron’s a little more mobile…Brett ran, but he didn’t like run to create.  Aaron kind of dances around back there and will wait until the guys break open, Brett would just throw it no matter what.”

JERRY KRAMER (on the teachings of Packers legendary head coach Vince Lombardi): "We never got beat. The clock ran out when the other team had more points when we did, but we never lost a game. So it’s that constant…will to win and that will to excel.  Those are the things that endure.”

GALE SAYERS (on Packers/Bears games at Wrigley Field): "You came out here and you knew that the fans would be on your side.  It would be different if they were in Green Bay or something, hell, they’d kill you, but here, no way.  And we played Green Bay on that field a long time.”

CSN will also re-air this episode of Bears Classics on Saturday, December 17 at 10:00 PM and again on New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31) at 7:00 PM.  Details regarding January’s premiere episode of Bears Classics will be announced in the coming weeks.  In addition, fans can also get interactive prior and during every airing of Bears Classics with their thoughts, memories and comments by utilizing the Twitter hashtag #BearsClassics.  Plus, CSNChicago.com will provide additional, online exclusive interviews and commentary write-ups from CSN’s team of Bears experts.